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Digital slow in Euro

Tech transition to take longer, study sez

BRUSSELS — Europe’s transition to digital technology is likely to be slower than it has been Stateside, according to a report prepared by consultants Arthur Andersen.

The report, commissioned by the pubcaster-funded European Broadcasting Union (EBU), suggests that widespread adoption of digital will take longer than expected, despite the hype from EU broadcasters about the revolutionary nature of the technology.

“The current digital infrastructure suggests that widespread adoption of digital services is likely to be quite slow. Our analysis indicates that digital broadcasting will not be the revolution that many commentators believe it will be, and its adoption across Europe may more closely resemble the growth of pay TV over the past 10 to 15 years,” said the report.

Cause for concern

It also indicates that alarm expressed by some European cultural commentators about “excessive” expenditure on U.S. films and TV programs is misplaced. “Many quarters express concern over the strength of U.S. programs in U.S. markets,” said Niall Duffy, principal author of the report. “In reality, only (euro) 2 billion, 11% of total spending, is spent on these programs.”

Despite digital’s potential to offer consumers multiple channels and interactive services, increasing the convergence between film, TV, video and Internet industries, the EBU study indicates that plans for mass-market TV services were advanced in only a few European markets.

The report concludes that even as the market for digital TV services in Europe becomes established, it will continue to be the traditional public service broadcasters along with ITV in the UK and TF1 in France who will drive investment in new European television production.

European expenditure on programming was $21 billion in 1996, a 28% increase in real terms since 1990. Of this, 66% was produced by traditional public broadcasters.

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