ONdigital replies to Ivan Clark’s questions

I read Ivan Clark’s media comment on ONdigital with some incredulity (MW April 15). Incredulity that he should want to raise in print questions he could get the answers to with one phone call. Anyway, here are the answers.

He asks why only 30,000 customers are signing up each month. Well, he is almost alone in not recognising what an extraordinary achievement this is. It is far above most predictions.

Critics fail to recognise that ONdigital is a new company that has been broadcasting and signing up subscribers from scratch for only five months. A good time to judge us again is after our first full Christmas selling season.

And why is Sky signing up new subscribers too? The reasoning behind this question falls into the trap of thinking that only one digital platform will survive in the long term. Wrong. There is plenty of room for satellite, cable and digital terrestrial.

ONdigital and Sky have demonstrated that there is a market for digital. We want to develop the market, not fight over the existing subscribers. Do not forget that when the analogue system is switched off in ten to 15 years’ time, every TV set in the UK should be able to receive digital terrestrial television.

There are interactive services on the way. We already have a games channel on line and we will add Internet e-mail in September, and shopping in the New Year.

The driver behind our customer base is our marketing, not the BBC’s. We recognise the contribution the corporation has made to raising awareness of digital TV. But it is our own efforts that have enabled us to build a large and growing base of prospective customers.

To correct another point, our marketing budget for the first year, including the set-top box subsidy is 90m not 37m as was suggested.

I’m sorry if anyone has had trouble getting through to our enquiry line. We are constantly adding new staff to our call centres, but are still running to catch up. We are determined to give good service to existing and prospective customers.

People ask about our subscriber target. It is to get as many customers as possible, as quickly as possible. That is the answer I have given since I started this job. I have refused to make pointless predictions, especially as most of the marketing and media analysts are busy doing that for me.

Finally, Clark asks why Sky Sports 2 isn’t available on ONdigital. Critics should ask the Independent Television Commission and Department of Culture Media and Sport, which has ruled that we cannot take any more BSkyB channels. We hope to get that changed, and as soon as we can we will offer that channel. But remember, if you want to watch the UEFA champions league next season, you will only see it all with ONdigital.

If there are any more questions about ONdigital, Clark, or anyone else, should call me.v

Stephen Grabiner is chief executive of


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