MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Most viewers have still to give digital a second thought

You've got to hand it to the BBC. Even in these late Birtian times, the British Broadcasting Corporation still manages to be a class act.

You've got to hand it to the BBC. Even in these late Birtian times,

the British Broadcasting Corporation still manages to be a class


After 'Perfect Day' comes a star-studded series of glossy promotions

from Leagas Delaney to publicise digital TV.

And not a moment too soon, it seems. You may be fed up to your molars

with reading endless articles about the digital revolution, but half the

people out there who will decide how fast it takes off and who the

winners and losers will be still haven't got a clue what it's all


It's another blinding example of the chasm between what the media

community thinks the public want and what the public themselves actually

get excited about, for most people the prospect of digital TV right now

is about as sexy as Monica Lewinsky without a cigar.

According to new research, 45 per cent of punters haven't even heard of

digital TV. The truth is that while we're all gleefully picking over the

politics of Sky Digital versus ONdigital and parading our ill-formed

digital TV credentials before confused clients, real people couldn't

care less.

What's more, for all that the BBC promos look lovely, people aren't

going to buy digital TV for better sound and picture quality (the main

thrust of the promos). If they are to be persuaded to part with their

money at all, it will only be for some fantastic new channels.

Which could be a problem. If people haven't been persuaded to opt for

multichannel TV already, given the high-quality movies and sports on the

analogue Sky platform, how will digital TV draw new subscribers in?

It's a sobering thought, particularly in the context of last week's

other news: the six channel packages with which Sky will launch the

concept of digital television. Smaller, cheaper packages could prove a

lure, but will people really be lining up to pay pounds 6.99 a month for

Sky One, Sky News, Discovery, Home & Leisure, Bloomberg and QVC? For an

extra pounds 2 things start looking up, and the Sky Family Pack at

pounds 11.99 is tempting. Throw in the sports and films services and the

price is pretty much the same as the analogue version today.

So what's new about Sky Digital that will really persuade the punters to

get their wallets out? The only real answer, if you assume the improved

technology will only appeal to a handful of early-adopters, are the new

channels on offer, such as MUTV, Film Four, UK Gold Classics and three

new Discovery channels. Ummm ...

Having seen previews of the Channel 4 and ITV autumn line-ups, it's

clear digital TV will be launching at a time when the analogue

terrestrial channels are pulling out all the stops to entertain us

through the long winter evenings. It's going to take more new, and

better, channels to really persuade non-multichannel homes to sign up

for digital. More channels - and a lot more time and money.