Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Broadcasters' HDTV Efforts Are Pitiful

Magazine article Marketing

Raymond Snoddy on Media: Broadcasters' HDTV Efforts Are Pitiful

Article excerpt

At last, Britain's terrestrial broadcasters are starting to get the message and are finally pushing ahead with high-definition television - or are they?

Last week Channel 4 announced that it is to launch an HDTV simulcast of its main terrestrial TV channel on Sky's digital satellite service from December. The only problem is that it is not exactly clear how many of the programmes will have been shot in HD. To begin with, Channel 4 will produce and transmit only 'a proportion' of its programmes in HD, though, naturally, it hopes that this unspecified proportion will increase over time.

Michael Grade's hat is also going in the HD ring from next year, but it's going to be a very modest effort. ITV likes to boast that it is now competing in a pounds 6bn market, so it is planning to invest pounds 6m in the first year by putting out only two to three hours a day of its peak-time schedule on Freesat, the planned free satellite service.

Last week Ofcom decided that a BBC HD channel would not have a negative impact on the market. The attitude of the BBC Trust, which will be setting out its views on HD this week, seems ambivalent at best. The Trust's provisional view is that HD may not offer good value for licence payers because there is capacity for HD across the 9m Freeview homes only in the middle of the night.

Meanwhile, the BBC is showing more HD programmes on its experimental service on Sky, but for much of the time Planet Earth still goes round on a never-ending loop.

Once again, Sky, now into its second year as an HD broadcaster, is the innovator. The numbers may be small - about 300,000 homes - but the increase last quarter was 48,000.

This is a classic chicken and egg situation - the numbers are small, so we won't bother investing much at the moment.

There are a number of problems with this ever-so gradual approach. Sets are flying out of the shops in their hundreds of thousands, if not millions, replete with 'HD ready' stickers, but there is still very little to watch.

Education and marketing has been poor, with many people believing that they are watching in HD because of the sticker, when clearly they are not.

The lack of HD progress in the UK will increasingly cause problems for the nation's production industry. If it wants to sell drama in the US, it will have to be shot in HD, which is moving very fast over there. …

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