Oz rethinks digital date

Less than 10% of households have switched

SYDNEY — Sluggish take-up of terrestrial digital by Oz auds has forced the government to push back analog’s date with death from 2008 to 2012, although it could be later.

Fewer than 10% of households have made the switch. By comparison, the U.K. also has a 2012 switch-off date, but more than 80% of Blighty households have made the leap.

“I think we need to have a good look at what would be a date for Australia,” said Communications Minister Helen Coonan. “I would certainly be looking critically at extending the current date.”

A review has been ordered to find an appropriate cutoff point.

The government can add that review to its pile. It has six other reviews into the changeover including a switch-off date and the question of whether to allow existing terrestrial channels — Seven, Nine, Ten, ABC and SBS — to offer extra channels once digital does take off.

The networks are split on the best way to get consumers aboard digital.

Heavyweight Nine suggests forcing TV manufacturers to include a digital receiver in new models. Nine is against extra channels as it believes it would dilute the quality of programming.

Seven supports extra channels as a way to inspire auds to go for digital.

Just 777,000 Oz homes have purchased digital TV equipment since it went on sale in 2001, with about half being sold in the past 12 months.

This contrasts with the take-up of digital in the pay TV sphere, which has been solid. Foxtel inked its 500,000th digital subscriber in November, just eight months after the launch of its digital service, suggesting that auds will respond to the content-driven approach.

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