Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Boxer's Success Exposes Cable's Glass Jaw

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Boxer's Success Exposes Cable's Glass Jaw

Article excerpt

It is not too often that you have to look to Sweden to find a media innovation. There is Metro International, the original free newspaper publisher, but that's about it. Except, that is, for Crister Fritzson, chief executive of Boxer.

Fritzson is not exactly a household name, even in his native country, but he has achieved something that has proved far beyond the capabilities of Charles Allen of ITV and Michael Green, formerly of Carlton. He is making digital terrestrial pay-TV work profitably in one of the most heavily cabled countries in Europe.

You may have thought digital terrestrial was thrown on the scrapheap with the collapse of ITV Digital. Other countries, such as Spain, have also tried the model and come a cropper. And, with the exception of a few crazies in the UK at Top Up TV, it is a universally acknowledged truth that digital terr-estrial is a free-to-air phenomenon. Surely Greg Dyke proved that comprehensively, whatever his other failings.

But Fritzson, with the backing of a big Swedish broadcaster and a local insurance group, has already carved out a subscriber base of 400,000 for his offering: a basic package of some of the most popular channels in Sweden for about pounds 12 a month. And Boxer only employs 29 staff - clearly a case of boxing above your corporate weight.

He set out his stall at last week's European Cable Communication Association conference in Budapest, though, given the challenge that his company poses to the cable sector, he was surprised to be invited at all.

The Boxer chief demonstrated a certain flexibility of mind that is clearly needed by anyone who ever attempts to challenge established orthodoxies. There are, he said, 400,000 boats, 200,000 caravans and 300,000 summer houses in Sweden - all of which are potential Boxer customers. Unlike cable and, to a large extent, satellite, he is trying to sell pay-TV to people on the move, or at least those who are moored for the night.

Leaving aside the 5m homes with digital terrestrial, how many boats are there in the UK? Not to mention caravans and second homes? Has anyone tried, in any sustained way, to sell their owners a basic pay-TV service for when they are away?

This might just be an opportunity for BSkyB to collaborate with David Chance of Top Up TV and put some muscle behind digital terrestrial pay-TV in the UK before it is too late and the service is forever established in the public mind as being an exclusively free-to-air phenomenon. …

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