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Digital Television in Europe, Vol. 9 - 2002, No. 4

, pages: 5-18

The author describes the extent to which digital television has penetrated the UK, claimed to be Europe's leading digital television market. He argues that digitalisation of television is driven by two high level Government objectives, efficiency in radio spectrum use and promotion of online connectivity. Reference to survey research suggests considerable delay in achieving the Government's target of digital switchover by 2010. The author considers the role of the BBC, the Government's principal instrument for achieving its digital policies, and argues that there is evidence to suggest the effect of the BBC's digital services is to reduce competition and diversity. This argument is supported by data drawn from interviews with executives of competing digital channels. The author concludes by considering the likely effect of the Government's Draft Communications Bill 2002 on the digital television market and the BBC in particular.

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, pages: 19-34

The development of digital television (DTV) has encountered many problems in the Europe. The recent collapse of terrestrial digital channels in Spain and UK, financial problems of even major satellite players and slow or stagnated user interest in most European countries demonstrate only one part of the difficulties. The combination of technological determinism, market optimism and inconsistent "light touch" regulation in the EU has accelerated the early development in Europe of digital television, but it has not been able to guarantee sound development in the long run. One of the major problems has been the standardisation. Industry led standardisation successfully developed the common digital transmission standards but the implementation of common "middleware" standards needed for interactive services and pay-TV access has not succeeded. Different standards are further segmenting European digital television markets. The development of European digital television is dominated by a few satellite broadcasters whose proprietary standards are preventing viewers from accessing a full range of digital channels with one device, thus causing unnecessary costs and delays both in the use and production of interactive DTV services. At the same time there is a constant threat of media concentration and competition problems. This chapter deals with past failures and future challenges and dilemmas in the European regulation of digital television development. Along with problems in standardisation, it discusses other policy dilemmas connected to DTV, like interactive advertising, the Listed Events policy and the remit of public regulation in general.

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, pages: 35-48

Over the last decade, the Spanish television market has radically changed, but television has never ceased being a favourite medium for advertisers, not only because of its potential to communicate emotions with a unique touch but above all because it reaches 98 per cent of Spanish households. In recent years, consumption of television has increased in Spain, now on the digital threshold, and there is already evidence from the US that households with access to fully interactive digital television increase their overall consumption of the medium. And yet, Infoadex data on advertising spend in Spain during 2001 indicates that out of the 18% of the total media investment received by television, less than 1.7% of that was spent on digital television. This raises an important question: why does advertiser interest in digital television not grow at the same pace as audience acceptance of the new technology? The arrival of digital multichannel television in 1997 means we must reconsider the concept of advertising in a medium in which the user pays for access to content. Advertising must now focus on becoming an added value service for the viewer, augmenting programme content. Digital television has the ability to increase segmentation of the audience and its interactive possibilities open the way towards creating new advertising messages. This paper explores the response of advertisers and other professional actors across the media sector. Its object is to establish an initial analysis of the reasons for the inhibited attitude of advertisers towards digital television. After a brief review of the present situation in Spain - with reference to the business models and the legal framework in which digital television is developing - we examine the role of advertising, using interviews with different professionals in the field, in order to identify the main barriers to advertising investment in digital television.

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, pages: 49-64

It is becoming clear that as digital television is rolled out across Europe, it is now in a "shake-out" phase where some institutional actors fail and others consolidate their activities. Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), hailed a few years ago as the platform most likely to succeed because of its universal reach and its low cost to both signal distributors and viewers, is now suffering severe reversals in many parts of Europe. This paper explores the reasons for this in one part of Europe, where DTT didn't even get to the point of being launched, despite the fact that intense planning took place over several years, involving both the public service broadcaster RTE and the Government. Political inertia, long delays and the collapse of global investor confidence in new media combined to freeze out the development of DTT and open the way for global operators to launch both cable and satellite platforms and seize new opportunities in a wide-open Irish market. The lesson for other parts of Europe is how easily democratic control of a major new communication technology can slip away, despite the best intentions of planners at the highest level, and how global forces, responding only to market imperatives, slip in to fill the void when national planning collapses. A case study approach demonstrates the detail of how the efficacy of national sovereignty in communication policy is eroded in an environment that is increasingly globalised.

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, pages: 67-74

This paper examines the acceptance and use of value added or interactive services by viewers on digital television (DTV) platforms. These services like the electronic program guide, enhanced background information on programs, internet access, video-ondemand, near video-on-demand, walled garden services have certain business value. The hype formulated in the mid-1990s gave them a priority over the good old television broadcasting service as main value drivers but due to viewersí unfavorable reaction to iTV the hype had not met expectations and incomes generated by value added services on different DTV platforms remained rather modest up till now. Nevertheless, the huge popularity and the high penetration of mobile phone use in Europe combined with special television show formats led to fast-growing uses of text messaging recently as a new way of interacting with television. The success of SMS demonstrates that viewers will change their coach potato habit if there is some real trade-off, some consumer surplus to get, and if the way of interacting is really user friendly. Itís worth mentioning yet that text message revenues do already represent an important element of proceeds generated by many shows on the screen.

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, , pages: 75-82

This paper sets out to investigate the development of the satellite TV phenomenon as one of the first steps towards the complete digitisation of the media in Italy. Of major importance is the set of circumstances that led a small terrestrial broadcasting company, Telepiů, to become the biggest digital TV service provider in Italy and one of the most important within Europe. Before putting forward any hypothesis about the future of Sky Italia as a new player, it is necessary to analyse the most recent changes within the duopoly Telepiů and Steam. These changes took place against the background of the predominance of generalist broadcasters and was primarily driven by the opportunity to broadcast content that was not available to traditional media, in a situation characterised by economic and legislative weakness. Digital technology at present can be considered an "unpopular" medium: it doesn't have social appeal because it doesn't get onto the audience' s social agenda. This can be inferred from the low level of subscription up-take and is confirmed by evidence of widespread technological incompetence among customers. At first sight, satellite digital TV seems to be a part of a recent technological convergence trend sweeping Europe, targeting TV as a whole. But on closer inspection, it is narrowly focussed in Italy on football and sport in general. Satellite digital TV in its current phase is built on access to football rights and is prevented from becoming a genuinely new broadcasting system in Italy because it is controlled by the narrow interests of its owners and controllers, the major players in the global entertainment market.

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, pages: 83-92

Digital broadcasting policy in the US has been ineffective in creating incentives, a market structure, or consumer interest sufficient to enable the broadcast industry to transition to digital signals. In spite of the early promises of interactivity that digital broadcasting appeared to offer, digital television now appears to be condensed into services emphasising further consumer transactions. The technical standards adopted for it provided little certainty to wary manufacturers and broadcasters, digital television prices have been too high for consumers to purchase sets, set top box technology is unsettled, and consumers do not know very much about digital systems. Moreover, since cable television distributes broadcast fare to 70% of the population, that industry's carriage of digital broadcast signals is crucial, and to date, US policy has not mandated that carriage. In the meantime, cable operators have developed their own digital services to add numerous additional channels, most of which offer video-on-demand programming.

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, pages: 93-95

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