Opinion: Adland must alter view of multi-channel arena

So, the 200-channel future has finally arrived (Campaign, last week).

So, the 200-channel future has finally arrived (Campaign, last


We can believe it’s actually here because BSkyB has now placed its order

for a million digital set-top boxes. In turn, this will mean the

imminent arrival of mass-market digital wide-screen televisions. This

really is going to happen, and it will affect us all, professionally and


So, why do so many in the advertising and media industries affect ennui

at the prospect? It may have something to do with the adage: we

overestimate the pace of change in the short term, and underestimate it

long term. It may also be because, to date, the digital revolution has

been somewhat underwhelming. So many channels, so little real need.

For the new television industry there is a new challenge: how to squeeze

blood out of a niche.

’Content is king’ is such an over-used mantra that we’ve all forgotten

what it really means. Of course, there has to be programming people want

to watch, but we should not underestimate the significance of access to

new delivery systems. The questions will be: at what time can we see,

and what will it cost us, to watch Leeds United games on pay-per-view

television, or re-runs of Friends and Soap? Of secondary importance will

be the arrival of 19 other pay-per-view Premiership football channels,

or 23 channels showing old comedy shows. The new generation of TV

viewers will drift serenely through the schedules, but probably won’t

care (or even know) what channel they are watching.

The broadcasters’ challenge will be branding, but adland must change its

perception of TV as a mass medium. Yes, niche channels have been around

for a decade now, but how many people in advertising can resist a

chuckle at derisory viewing figures? Learning that the size of those

viewing figures might not matter remains the most significant shift in

attitude that is required of us.