Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Going digital in Paris

Now that Paris has switched off its analogue TV transmitters, many Parisians may be wondering what exactly that should expect, from going wholly digital. In the short term, the answer is probably not much: figures indicate that only a small proportion of homes were relying on analogue transmissions before switch-off, so for many households it will be business as usual. Just like in the UK, viewers may need to re-tune their set-top boxes or TVs, but that’s probably all for now.

Looking forward, though, the analogue switch-off has the potential to drive some real change. Radio spectrum is so valuable that some of it will undoubtedly be sold off for purposes other than television. But more high-definition and interactive services are probably on the cards, as new digital services are able to re-use some of the spectrum currently used for analogue services. Given that French operators have demonstrated HbbTV-based services, there is already some movement in this direction. As France and the UK both move towards support for HTML-based interactive services in their terrestrial TV networks, it’s likely that we will see a range of new content appearing on TVs in the near future.

Based on experiences in Germany and the UK, catch-up TV services will probably be the first to appear. While not necessarily innovative, we have to remember that most people don’t regard interactive services as the “killer app” for their TV – the experience of actually watching TV is still far more important. Services that make it easier for people to do that are likely to be the winners in the short term. The combination of a standard platform and more broadcast bandwidth will help broadcasters deploy a wide range of new services, but service providers will still need to rely on “customer pull” rather than “technology push” to make those services a success.

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