Digitv.com 1 

1 June 2001 tbs.pm/1656

The biggest revolution in broadcasting history since the birth of commercial television began in the UK in 1997 with the launch of digital television.

More channels and more choice were promised to the viewer. Today, in 2001, we see that digital has brought us more channels to choose from, but they are not all successful.

The Money Channel has had some well-reported financial problems. Simply Money was simply losing money and relaunched itself as a shopping channel.

Some of the Asian-language services have gone from subscription to free to air and back again in order to tempt subscribers to their services.

Add to that the reports that some programmes on the major digital channels such as BBC Choice, E4 and ITV2 have had no viewers at all, and you can see that the digital channel revolution has suffered similar problems to the dot com revolution.

But why? Simply, there are so many channels and services out there fighting for your attention and viewing time but not enough hours in the week, never mind a day, to view them all.

Plus, the services are as diverse as they come with channels all about fashion, computer games, health, dance music and extreme sports, mixed in with the more traditional multi-channel fare of entertainment, news, movies, sports, pop music and classic television programmes.

With so many new channels coming on stream almost on a weekly basis, it is quite easy to forget that before the digital era, several analogue satellite and cable channels also found the going somewhat tough.

Country Music Television, The Weather Channel and The Family Channel, amongst others, all had difficulty getting their services accepted by enough viewers to make running a channel worthwhile. Even Sky with their deep pockets had troubles with The Comedy Channel, Sky 2 and Sky Sports Gold in the pre-digital era.

But these and other quite high profile difficulties haven’t put off the television companies who have launched new channel after new channel or brought existing channels to Sky Digital.

Okay, you say, so satellite and digital channels have had some problems, but what’s that got to do with dotcoms? Well, the parallels between the dotcom revolution of the late 1990s and the multi-channel revolution that began in 1997 are quite astounding.

The dotcom revolution saw a massive increase in the number of online shopping websites, a rise that was not supported by an equivalent rise in the number of online consumers.

In the same way, the expansion in the number of channels available to the viewing audience has not been reciprocated by a similar increase in the number of households able to view these digital channels.

Therefore, there will be a point when the number of channels will be so large that the viewing audience and the advertising market will be unable to support them all.

To a small extent we have seen that already, but with the continued expansion of channels, it will not be long before this particular bubble does what the dotcom bubble did and bursts, leading to a number of quite high profile channel failures right across the spectrum of digital channels

We all know that 2000 was the year when the dotcoms began meeting with their logical conclusion, leaving a lot of casualties in their wake. 2001 has seen the first few failures of the digital TV revolution.

Could the next year see the bursting of this bubble? The only people who can decide that are the ordinary people in the street.

Will you watch the programmes on these new channels, and buy the products advertised on them or will you just stick with the channels and programmes you know and love?

Now, for the first time since September 1955, the future of television is back in the hands of the viewers and advertisers.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Liverpool, Friday 12 August 2022