Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Farewell KIT, a Flight of Fancy Too Far

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Farewell KIT, a Flight of Fancy Too Far

Article excerpt

April 3 should be remembered as KIT Day - for at least the next few years. Monday was the day that Kingston Communications finally closed down its innovative, nay revolutionary, broadband television service, Kingston Interactive Television (KIT).

When it launched more than five years ago, the good folk of Kingston-upon-Hull were the first in Europe to get 60 digital TV channels, video-on-demand, high-speed internet and lots of local news.

The development was in part down to the then-chief executive of the Kingston telephone company, Steve Maine, who had been in charge of the BT trial in Colchester that pioneered TV down the phone line. BT, perhaps wisely, filed the experiment away for a decade or so.

The service was available to 10,000 homes in the Hull area, and Greg Dyke and the BBC were so excited that they decided to spend pounds 25m on Project Hull. About pounds 4m would go on interactive TV for KIT - special material from everything from EastEnders and the Tweenies to Blue Planet - as well as education material for local schools. Hull was where the future was at.

At one stage Rupert Murdoch even flew to Hull in the News Corp jet to have dinner and find out what was going on. It is not known whether he ever felt the need to return.

So where did it all go wrong?

By the end, the 10,000 subscribers had dwindled to less than 4000 and Kingston saw no way to turn the project around. It lacked scale and since its launch, the market had moved on, with BSkyB more powerful as a national brand and Freeview beginning its rise, offering a cheap and cheerful alternative.

While local news seemed to be popular, there is only so much local news you can gather in Hull.

The knowledge that BT is planning to launch its own internet television service later this year must also have concentrated Kingston executives' minds.

But there is another possible explanation, and one that underlines the importance of marking KIT Day.

Kingston executives admitted that despite interactive offerings, consumers seemed to prefer conventional, passive, linear TV. Funny that. Who would have thought?

It is something for BT executives to contemplate as they launch their pounds 1bn IPTV service. …

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