MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Rival messages on digital TV destined to confuse punter

The problem with having any claim on knowledge of the media industry is that you’re expected to have all the answers.

The problem with having any claim on knowledge of the media

industry is that you’re expected to have all the answers.

Not answers to easy questions, like can TV companies tell when you’re

taking a sneaky peak at satellite porn? No, the really tricky questions

people are lobbing at me lately have all been about digital TV. Despite

all the vox pops suggesting that some of the British public are still

blissfully unaware that a revolution has taken place, most people I’ve

talked to recently know something has changed.

They know there’s more TV choice available through this thing called

digital television and, thanks to heavy advertising, they’ve heard of

Sky Digital. As of last weekend, ONdigital is also dawning in the

nation’s consciousness. But the very different types of advertising used

by Sky Digital and ONdigital seem to have caused more confusion at the

same time as raising awareness. Knowing a brand name doesn’t equate to

understanding the product, and the differences between the various

options still floor many would-be subscribers.

Take my partner’s parents. They’ve got cable but find customer service

appalling, so they’re in the market for change and fancy a bit of

digital. Dad wants cricket and French channels, mum wants

German-language channels and they both want to keep the existing

terrestrial services. If they go for ONdigital, will they get Sky

cricket? And will they lose the foreign-language channels they enjoy on

cable? And what about Sky Digital? Will it provide everything they


These are the sort of questions which, I suspect, are being asked on

couches across the land. And they’re undoubtedly questions borne out of

a confusion compounded by the BBC’s own digital TV advertising and,

slipping in at the 11th hour, digital TV advertising from ITV. There was

Trevor McDonald on ITV on Sunday evening telling the nation that ITV had

gone digital that very day. This was, of course, via ONdigital, because

as industry observers are well aware, ITV has refused to play with the

Sky Digital ball. But there was no mention of ONdigital in the ITV ads.


Was this yet another digital option to contend with? Would Corrie

disappear without it? I dread to think what will happen when ads for

ITV2 start popping up as well.

Having heard so many broadcasters (even Sky) boast about being ’platform

neutral’ in the digital age, the disparate and disjointed approach taken

to promoting the idea of digital TV seems farcical. Would it really have

been impossible for the various broadcasters to develop a more coherent

promotional strategy by getting across a common digital TV message? I

know there is a degree of co-operation between the different digital

channels, but while each is relentlessly pursuing its own digital

advertising strategy, the bemused viewing public is likely to sink into

dizzy apathy.

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