Extended reach to be completed by 2005's end

AMSTERDAM — Finland plans to expand its digital terrestrial TV services to reach 99.9% of the country, up from a current coverage of 72%.

The extended reach, set to be completed by the end of 2005, is expected to push into high gear the sale of digital transmitters in the territory which have been sluggish at best since the platform was launched several years ago. Some 94% of the country is expected to be covered by next August.

Finnish auds have never been convinced of the need to go digital. Decoders up until this year have been expensive, and viewers could only receive a handful of additional channels they could not get on analog.

As of August 2003, only 6% of all Finnish households had digital decoders but with prices of decoders falling by at least 50% this year, that stat has begun to climb rapidly. Demand is also being pushed by the Finnish government’s plans to phase out analog entirely in 2007.

Channel Four Finland’s managing director Juha-Pekka Louhelainen told Daily Variety the expansion of the network is a big boost for his channel. While Finnish public broadcaster YLE and national commercial channel MTV3 have always had national coverage in analog, commercial outlet Channel Four, which started up only a few years ago, has only had an 85% reach, at best.

Finland next year will begin a pilot study for the launch of a new multiplex of channels in Finland aimed at delivery of mobile phone content. Currently there are 10 digital channels on three multiplexes shared among YLE, MTV3 and Channel Four.

Coin for the pilot study will come from the public and commercial channels, Nokia, telcom TeliaSonera and several other investors.

“The pilot will be very interesting for us, in terms of new streams of revenue, including the opportunity to launch pay-per-view services for mobile phone users,” added Louhelainen.

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