TV insiders present dim future for digital

DTT platform ITV Digital called huge disappointment

CANNES — Digital TV experts painted a gloomy picture Tuesday of the future of European digital terrestrial broadcasting based on what’s happened in the U.K. and France.

Digital satellite and cable TV in the U.K. has been a success, but digital terrestrial TV (DTT) platform ITV Digital is a huge disappointment, John Foley, head of U.K.-based Convergent Decisions Group, told a Mipcom panel.

The upgrade of terrestrial broadcasting from analog to digital could take up to 20 years, he said. The U.K. government wants to switch by 2010.

Unless regulators allow ITV Digital parent companies Granada and Carlton to merge, Granada may pull out of the platform by Christmas, he added.

Foley said launching DTT through private media companies may not be feasible, and the government and pubcasters may have to keep it afloat.

“People who want multichannel TV subscribe to Sky or get cable,” Foley said, adding that there was little incentive for viewers to buy a set-top decoder or adapter. France has similar problems. Philips had no success when they introduced integrated digital TV sets to the market. Philips’ new technology director Michel Ayel said the sets didn’t sell because they forced people who wanted free TV to buy pay television. “You cannot mix free and pay TV,” he concluded.

Digital TV consultant Gerald Ganascia said DTT won’t be launched in France for another two years since it involves dozens of decisionmakers, including regulators and commercial and public broadcasters.

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