Attack on digital lacks know-how

Ben Thompson writes that the reality of digital TV will be disappointing and that the promise of interaction is limited to systems capable of telephone connection – and that these boxes will be no more intelligent than TVs (MW March 19). The presumptions he made are based on an incomplete technical understanding and the artificial limits imposed by broadcasters for fiscal reasons – not unconnected with the complexities of delivering a new service.

That the scope of initial digital offerings will be limited to improvements in video and audio quality and formats is true, but that has nothing to do with its potential. I demonstrated – along with the BBC – last March that an engaging interactive experience could be provided without the complexities of things such as phone connections. With these single-ended systems it is impossible to register who is doing what at the point of consumption. For many consumers this is an advantage not a disadvantage. For marketers, schemes based on smart cash-card systems and loyalty schemes can compensate for much of this lost data. For more targeted campaigns, the information collected can be used to separate committed viewers from casual browsers.

So what will digital broadcasting offer? That really is the question because broadcasters will be pushed into implementing more broadcast technology just about as fast as advertisers and sponsors shove. For example, additional multimedia experiences can be broadcast on parallel channels or as part of a carousal of continuously repeating information. The use of Internet-spawned programming technologies will mean that the bandwidth and time required to access information will need to be small, so that an ever-changing palette of overlayed or windowed experiences can be delivered alongside the linear programme narrative. Each one of these experiences is a sponsorship or branding opportunity.

Viewers will put themselves into finer and finer sub-groupings based on their personal pathway through the programme. This can be used by marketers for more personalised marketing. Not quite one to one, but for many the illusion could be there.

So all that digital TV provides is more programme bandwidth? I think not. However, the use of additional services is within your reach. Broadcasters may well stop at NVOD (near video on demand) /multicasting of spectaculars, each waiting for the other to take a risk.

Steve Everhard

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