Julian Clover helps himself to a mince pie and looks back at the last 12 months in multichannel broadcasting
Not so long ago a friend said he now realised why we’d called ourselves Broadband TV News rather than digital something or other, I confessed that there was no strategic plan and it just seemed to be a good idea at the time, the word digital even five years ago already being a little old hat. Clearly what we should now be claiming is some sort of tremendous foresight in how the market would develop.
Progressively over the last 12 months we have seen a movement towards Broadband TV, typified by the BBC’s Project Canvas, the launch of over-the-top TV services including the online availability of Sky-branded channels, and the Cana;+ fusion of IP-delivered VOD services with its existing satellite proposition. Even if the business world will be required to batten down the hatches – the big problems have to date been with currency conversions, though job losses at Cablecom have to be recognised – it is apparent that we are going through further change in the way multichannel television is delivered. We even have a new word, multiplatform, while the content providers talk about 360 degree commissioning, making sure that every new TV project is genuinely suited to all sizes of screens rather than being an afterthought from the marketing department.
We’ve seen hints at this new world order before with the launch of the hybrid set-top box. Canal Digital combined DTT with satellite to ensure viewers received the full suite of local channels while BT’s IPTV service used DTT to underpin its ADSL network.
While Canal, along with NDS and Pace-Philips should be congratulated for the deployment of new technology, it should be remembered that its move its part defensive. Having seen off TPS, the French pay-TV operator now faces a new DTH rival in the form of France Telecom’s Orange, which has started its own satellite platform to sit alongside its successful IPTV network. Western Europe has been pre-occupied with the ownership of its DTH platforms, and while the region hasn’t seen the mushrooming in satellite platforms found in Central Europe, the possibility remains.
2008 has seen the launch of Freesat and some international equivalents, such as the French TNTSat, and the promise of a new French language platform for Belgium. There has also been constant speculation over the ownership of Digital+ in Spain, another new owner for Canal+ in the Nordics, and News Corp extending its tentacles into Germany through Premiere.
It is difficult to assess how HD has performed. Sky’s near 30-channel offer has no match, and its half million-subscriber base must be the envy of operators everywhere, not to mention the accompanying increase in ARPU.
For its part cable, which for so long has relied on broadband internet found a new champion in EuroDOCSIS 3, and the promise of speeds in excess of 100 Mbps. Virgin Media has the promise, but the inadequacies of its competitors mean that 50 Mbps will do the job for now, and by mid -2009 will allow it to advertise the country’s fastest speeds.
The inevitable rise of DTT has put the European cable utility model under threat, but all things considered the world is still a reasonably bright place.