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What could have made On/ITV Digital a success?

Imagining an alternate future for DTT. (July 2016)

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RD
rdd Founding member
That has happened with every digital TV rebrand I have seen - the previous brands colours - and even logos - seem to stay on for months, if not years afterwards on EPGs afterwards.

The exception seems to be Sky, which has never changed its trading name.
IN
Interceptor
A
ONrequest wasn't rebranded at the same time as ONdigital, I presume because the software needed to be patched to reflect the branding. It was eventually rebranded as ITV Select, and looked rubbish compared to its predecessor. All that blue and yellow, gah!

ONmail was never rebranded. After ONnet was launched, mere months after ONmail's launch the service was more or less unadvertised, and stopped working through STBs shortly after ITV Digital went under. The onmail.co.uk web portal kept working though, and bizarrely was rebranded a few months later - was it sold!?


I can't remember exactly how long it was known as ITV Digital for but I don't think the STB software was ever updated to reflect the name change (although I believe there were stickers used to rebrand the outside of the box) and instructions to "contact OnDigital" to receive encrypted channels were hardcoded in. This message also appeared when TopUpTV started as its first incarnation required an OnDigital box.

OnMail did continue with a new owner, but I don't think it was for very long.

No the EPG was never updated. The actual interface was quite nice, it was just the speed that killed it.

ONmail carried on until at least 2004 but I think it was much later than that.
IN
Interceptor
rdd posted:
That has happened with every digital TV rebrand I have seen - the previous brands colours - and even logos - seem to stay on for months, if not years afterwards on EPGs afterwards.

The exception seems to be Sky, which has never changed its trading name.

Virgin Media had their black EPG out pretty quickly in NTL land.
GE
thegeek Founding member
The ITV Digital 'upgrade' stickers. [pdf]

They're hosted on OnHistory - which I'm fairly sure was working fairly recently, but archive.org has much of it: https://web.archive.org/web/20121222163933/http://www.onhistory.co.uk/
WH
Whataday Founding member
Carlton Select did close in 2000:

http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/carlton-pulls-plug-carlton-select/31519#

but I have a vague memory of a channel continuing on cable for a lot longer as a kind of 'zombie channel' - ie the same pool of programmes put out on a loop, automatically played out as if to fulfil some sort of contractual obligation. Perhaps that was Select?
LL
Larry the Loafer
Yes, their Internet access was called onNet


Surprised they never tried to call it On Line, frankly.
CW
cwathen Founding member
Quote:
And OnDigital's channel numbering was awful. Text services attaining high EPG positions - bloody stupid. There should have been a general entertainment, kids, news, adult and PPV section, rather than completely mix it all up.

I don't think OD had any control over that, existing broadcasters and FTA channels were entitled to 'due prominence'. Teletext was an existing terrestrial broadcaster (even if it was only a text service) and so they were entitled to the channel 9 EPG position they had. Similarly BBC Text got channel 10 because it too, as the main PSB was entitled to have it's services on low numbers. Perhaps more odd was channel 15, the 'ntl' channel which just contained an EPG duplicated many times over elsewhere. Never quite got what that was all about or why the transmitter operator would want to operate their own service directly - seemed a bit IBA-like to me.

This also led to Shop! getting a low channel number under 20 as it was an FTA channel - a remnant of this still exists on Freeview to this day with QVC keeping it's channel 16 slot since it got that number before the Freeview consortium got control of the EPG and presumably can't be forced to give it up now seeing as it has survived on that number through numerous reshuffles of the Freeview EPG. If they had joined more recently they'd have never bagged a number as low as that.

OD's pay services started at channel 20, but they used that slot themselves for a text service (Initially called FirstOnDigital, later rebranded to OnView) - although in fairness it was billed as an 'Interactive' service which was an all the rage term at the time. This contained their only full listings guide as the box software itself only supported now/next information, it never contained a proper EPG. After the rebrand to ITV Digital this text service moved to channel 88 so that ITV Sport Channel could get Channel 20.

After that, ISTR that 21, 22, and 23 were taken up by Sky Sports, 24 by Sky Moviemax and 25 by Sky Premier, whilst basic tier channels started at channel 26 with Sky One, 27 for Cartoon Network, and then after that they arranged things together in bouquets depending on channel owner rather than genre, so all the Carlton channels went together, than the GSB channels, then UKTV. It wasn't quite as much of a mess as it appeared at the original launch, it just wasn't arranged into a genre-based EPG but then until Sky Digital no one did this anyway and it was arguably unnecessary with the limited number of channels.

The big mistake they made was not leaving gaps for later launches nor leaving enough space at the bottom (or should that be top?) of the EPG for additional FTA launches (although likely that was out of their hands), as it did start to get a bit messy when more channels launched and just got added onto the end so the prominance was based more on when things launched then the quality of the channel and particularly when they started launching more interactive/text services in the 40's and later FTA channel launches ended up going into the high 40s and into the 50s (I remember ITN News Channel was channel 48 ), at the other end of a sea of pay TV channels. Likely this did nothing to help those channels.

Quote:
ONrequest wasn't rebranded at the same time as ONdigital, I presume because the software needed to be patched to reflect the branding. It was eventually rebranded as ITV Select, and looked rubbish compared to its predecessor. All that blue and yellow, gah!

IIRC before the rebrand to ITV Select the OnRequest software was coloured pink and grey! It certainly didn't look too pretty itself, particularly through composite connections.

Quote:
I can't remember exactly how long it was known as ITV Digital for but I don't think the STB software was ever updated to reflect the name change (although I believe there were stickers used to rebrand the outside of the box) and instructions to "contact OnDigital" to receive encrypted channels were hardcoded in. This message also appeared when TopUpTV started as its first incarnation required an OnDigital box.

The rebrand was in the middle of July 2001 (IIRC it was exactly a month before ITV rebranded to ITV1), they then went into administration in March 2002 and ceased broadcasting at the end of April 2002 (technically the early hours of 1st May), so just over 9 months, not very long at all.

The stickers were very funny, and also very poor quality - the printing rubbed off them in no time. I'm sure I've seen some very late model Pace boxes which do actually have the ITV Digital logo on them rather than OD, but that might have just been a photoshopped picture rather than something that existed.

There were rumours that just before their collapse they were about to update the software on the boxes to rebrand, but then when TUTV launched the boxes did get a software update which had apparently been written by ITV Digital before their collapse and strengthened the encryption so that gold cards would no longer work. Despite all the speculation, this also didn't rebrand the interface though so I don't know whether they ever had any plans to do it (or if it was even possible to do via an OTA upgrade - I doubt very much the designers of the hardware anticipated that the company would be rebranding within the useful lifespan of the boxes).

I think what is more likely is they were developing second-generation hardware (as Sky was doing themselves at this time) which would have featured ITV Digital branded software but the original boxes would never have changed.
Last edited by cwathen on 21 July 2016 4:42pm - 5 times in total
BH
BillyH Founding member
Regarding Carlton Select, Wikipedia actually had the right date for years but an anonymous IP changed the page in 2013 adding some guff about it "returning" after ITV Digital's closure but closing down shortly after. I've changed things back to what I think is correct.

It's Carlton Cinema that definitely survived until the 2003 date and was the last survivor of the Carlton channels.

EDIT: Actually hang on...TV Ark is used on the Wikipedia page as a reference and this lists the 2003 dates too. But having a look at Web Archive they used to give the date as 2000 too, and it's been changed on their website sometime between 2009 and 2012. Presumably someone's contacted the website and given them the incorrect date, or it really did return for a while? I doubt it as the page has no idents after 1999.

Certainly having cable at the time I have no memory of Carlton Select at all, only Taste CFN (which closed earlier) and Cinema.
JF
JetixFann450
Here's Taste CFN closing for the very last time with one of the nicest idents I've ever seen on a TV food channel.


However, Wellbeing didn't close with a message, they just said it was going to close at midnight and the transmission just froze, like this:
JA
JAS84
but I have a vague memory of a channel continuing on cable for a lot longer as a kind of 'zombie channel' - ie the same pool of programmes put out on a loop, automatically played out as if to fulfil some sort of contractual obligation. Perhaps that was Select?
That sounds like TCC to me.
DV
dvboy
Perhaps more odd was channel 15, the 'ntl' channel which just contained an EPG duplicated many times over elsewhere. Never quite got what that was all about or why the transmitter operator would want to operate their own service directly - seemed a bit IBA-like to me.


I remember this still being there well into the Freeview age.
LL
Larry the Loafer
JAS84 posted:
but I have a vague memory of a channel continuing on cable for a lot longer as a kind of 'zombie channel' - ie the same pool of programmes put out on a loop, automatically played out as if to fulfil some sort of contractual obligation. Perhaps that was Select?
That sounds like TCC to me.


The story I know was some cable services carried Nordic TCC after the UK one ceased. I'm not sure why, and I can't see what sort of contract term they'd have to fulfil for them to do that.

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