Australia cooling on digital TV

Facing a number of hurdles themselves, American broadcasters should take notice of the transition to DTV down under. Digital television is bombing in Australia, with advertisers losing interest in the technology as low TV receiver sales and a lack of new content have created a “lame proposition,” said a top media buying executive at a recent DTV conference in Sydney.

Anne Parsons, chief executive of the media buying group, Zenith Media, said big changes are needed to fuel digital TV sales in Australia, and that the TV networks should be able to offer extra channels on the free-to-air digital TV spectrum. (Multichannel digital broadcasting is currently not allowed in Australia.) She said today’s free-to-air digital TV proposition has a very low reach, and offers no real ability to be interactive.

Parsons told the Network Insight conference, which focused on DTV in East Asia, especially Australia, that the two percent of homes expected to have digital TV by the end of the year was “not enough to matter” from an advertiser’s perspective. “Now the excitement and enthusiasm from an advertiser perspective has actually waned,” she said.

Christophe Cazes, general manager of marketing and sales at Thomson Asia Pacific, said the “better picture” promise of digital TV initially drove sales. “But in the second stage you have to offer something else,” he told the conference. “Very quickly you will need to provide some services, and the industry is looking at that . . . In some other parts of the world gaming has been important.”

Nine Network Australia’s director of digital services, Kim Anderson, said there was little incentive for the TV networks to provide enhancements on their digital TV signal. “We are free-to-air broadcasters and advertising is our revenue model, so providing enhanced services involves the viewer moving off the main program—and that is not a turn-on for the advertiser,” she said. “So it’s difficult for free-to-air networks to provide these sort of services.”

Anderson said the TV networks are instead using mobile phones to create new services, rather than the digital TV spectrum.

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