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What could have made On/ITV Digital a success?

Imagining an alternate future for DTT. (July 2016)

LL
London Lite Founding member London London
I was still using the Mediamaster OnDigital box on Freeview launch day, along with I suspect many viewers who didn't have a DVB-T tuner yet on their television set.

Of the non PSB channels which transitioned between ITV Digital and Freeview, QVC was on as I recall it being on the SDN mux and still is to this day.
IN
Interceptor
Yes, Freeview worked just fine to begin with, and I believe Top Up TV was initially only available on ex-ITV Digital boxes and compatible digital TVs (a rare beast!). The only STBs available at Freeview launch were the Pace DTVA and ex-ITV Digital stock (mostly Philips and Nokia boxes).

If I recall correctly, the third party ITV Digital channels (except E4 and FilmFour) closed on May 1st, along with ITV Select and ITV Sport Select. They all showed a looping information page for a week or so before the streams themselves were shut off (although the EPG information, including now and next remained stuck).

ITV Sport Channel continued until the end of the football season, any remaining stuff moved to ITV2 (notably the Tour de France, which ITV have done very well with ever since).

E4 and FilmFour carried on until the end of May, just before Big Brother. They were able to continue because C4 actually broadcast the channels themselves on the "Digital 3&4" Mux.

Around this time the BBC started a number of test streams showing the lovely Q&A Windmills test - two were nationwide and became the 701/702 streams (later known as Red Button), two more were only on Crystal Palace and I believe were tests for 16QAM.

The Freeview consortium won the bid for the licenses in June, and somewhere around June/July that year they actually took control of the multiplexes abandoned by ITV Digital which had the effect of finally deleting the old EPG data. The first Freeview channels to go live were the BBC radio stations, which I think went live in late September/early October.
RE
Rex London London
Yes, Freeview worked just fine to begin with, and I believe Top Up TV was initially only available on ex-ITV Digital boxes and compatible digital TVs (a rare beast!). The only STBs available at Freeview launch were the Pace DTVA and ex-ITV Digital stock (mostly Philips and Nokia boxes).

If I recall correctly, the third party ITV Digital channels (except E4 and FilmFour) closed on May 1st, along with ITV Select and ITV Sport Select. They all showed a looping information page for a week or so before the streams themselves were shut off (although the EPG information, including now and next remained stuck).

ITV Sport Channel continued until the end of the football season, any remaining stuff moved to ITV2 (notably the Tour de France, which ITV have done very well with ever since).

E4 and FilmFour carried on until the end of May, just before Big Brother. They were able to continue because C4 actually broadcast the channels themselves on the "Digital 3&4" Mux.

Around this time the BBC started a number of test streams showing the lovely Q&A Windmills test - two were nationwide and became the 701/702 streams (later known as Red Button), two more were only on Crystal Palace and I believe were tests for 16QAM.

The Freeview consortium won the bid for the licenses in June, and somewhere around June/July that year they actually took control of the multiplexes abandoned by ITV Digital which had the effect of finally deleting the old EPG data. The first Freeview channels to go live were the BBC radio stations, which I think went live in late September/early October.

They also carried out tests for the Sky channels, UK History and The Hits as far as it was concerned. While Freeview had a dearth of quality channels in its first 2 years, it picked up with abc1 and ITV3 launching, then with E4 becoming FTA on DTT, and the further launches of channels such as Sky Three, ITV4, More4, and several other channels.
E4, Dave, M&M, Challenge, Film4, and to a lesser extent, ITV3, have shown the widespread benefits of airing FTA as opposed to Pay TV. And as a whole, it's delivered a positive outcome for DTT and digital TV in the UK.
REEEEEEEEE
DE
deejay Oxford
Windmills is on YouTube if you would like to re-live it! It was specifically shot to test coding techniques and codecs, with waving grass, water ripples, crowd scenes and so on.

Two minutes regions...
MR
mr_vivian UTV Newsline
ITV Digital's problem from the start was coverage.

When it came out most of the people who wanted to buy a box found out they had no coverage so they didn't bother with it.

If ITV Digital came out today it would be a different story because most people could receive it today.

If they had invested in coverage instead of new itv channels I think it would have then had the money to eventually launch their own sport and news channels.
RE
Rex London London
ITV Digital's problem from the start was coverage.

When it came out most of the people who wanted to buy a box found out they had no coverage so they didn't bother with it.

If ITV Digital came out today it would be a different story because most people could receive it today.

If they had invested in coverage instead of new itv channels I think it would have then had the money to eventually launch their own sport and news channels.

They did manage to get a 65% share of the News Channel after the closure of ITV Digital - but the ITV News Channel was horribly underfunded - and the Freeview bandwidth problems, made worse with the launches of ITV3, ITV4 and CITV, lead to its closure. With the capacity that ITV has for Freeview, a news channel should be viable, but I don't think they are committed to that.
REEEEEEEEE
MA
Maaixuew
ITV Digital's problem from the start was coverage.

When it came out most of the people who wanted to buy a box found out they had no coverage so they didn't bother with it.

If ITV Digital came out today it would be a different story because most people could receive it today.

If they had invested in coverage instead of new itv channels I think it would have then had the money to eventually launch their own sport and news channels.

They did manage to get a 65% share of the News Channel after the closure of ITV Digital - but the ITV News Channel was horribly underfunded - and the Freeview bandwidth problems, made worse with the launches of ITV3, ITV4 and CITV, lead to its closure. With the capacity that ITV has for Freeview, a news channel should be viable, but I don't think they are committed to that.


Closure of the ITV News Channel, December 2005:

SW
Steve Williams
4. They didn't have as many channels as Sky, and didn't have the 'big ticket' channels in the same way that Sky did. Sky had the more desirable line-up and content mix.


Indeed, and certainly in the early years, the market for digital TV was people who wanted loads more channels, and they were highly likely to already have Sky and so graduated to Sky Digital. They weren't going to be converted to ONDigital, which had fewer channels, and the audience that was left was those more or less happy with what they had. So it fell between two stools, aiming at an audience that didn't really exist in any great numbers.

I had ONDigital for two days in 2001, but the picture quality was so bad we had to take it back. We got Freeview eighteen months later and it was much better. But it's interesting how for the first three years, digital TV equalled pay TV. I know before ITV Digital went bust PACE were just about to release their box, the first one to only pick up the free channels, but for a long time I assume most people assumed that digital TV would involve subscription. I wonder if switchover would have happened far later if ITV Digital had continued, as people would have just refused to pay. It would also have been interesting in that subscription TV would presumably have been much more widespread.

ITV Sport Channel continued until the end of the football season, any remaining stuff moved to ITV2 (notably the Tour de France, which ITV have done very well with ever since).


Of course, ITV had one more season of exclusive rights to the Champions League, so they ended up having to show matches on ITV News as well. Actually the coverage that season, the first I had Freeview for, was really good, four live matches a week for free, and all with their own unique 45 minute build up as well. You didn't get that level of build up on Sky!
BR
Brekkie Wales Wales Today
Hindsight and all that but I think if they'd pushed the technology first and got DTT into peoples home under the promise of additional free channels, and then pushed ITV Digital/ON Digital as an add-on it might have worked better. Also arguably it was a mistake for them to carry Sky Sports and Sky Movies - they took up valueable channel space and ITV Digital was never really going to compete with Sky in getting that market. Concentrating on general entertainment channels ala Now TV may have worked better - effectively doing what Now TV did now, or Top Up TV without so many channel share arrangements.

Ultimately though ITV Digital collapsing was the best thing to ever happen to digital TV in the UK.
Turns out nobody had 2020 vision.
IS
Inspector Sands
The thing is if they'd waited a few years until the technology improved we'd have had a digital terrestrial system comprised of a handful of channels that you needed an expensive box to view, a situation which would have appealed to the public even less.


Starting off with a Freeview model might not have worked either. It was difficult enough to grab decent line up of free channels for a long while, let alone in 1998
LL
London Lite Founding member London London
Concentrating on general entertainment channels ala Now TV may have worked better - effectively doing what Now TV did now, or Top Up TV without so many channel share arrangements.


However NOW TV also offer sports and films, yet also has the support of the parent company. ITV Digital took a massive gamble with FL rights and lost.

I agree that the entertainment channel selection should have been better though. NOW TV picked the ones viewers are most likely to watch live or via VoD (plus two are Sky exclusives) and has worked for them.
ST
Stuart West Country (West) Spotlight
The thing is if they'd waited a few years until the technology improved we'd have had a digital terrestrial system comprised of a handful of channels that you needed an expensive box to view, a situation which would have appealed to the public even less.


Starting off with a Freeview model might not have worked either. It was difficult enough to grab decent line up of free channels for a long while, let alone in 1998

In all fairness to ONdigital/ITV Digital, they were the victims (albeit a willing one) who believed they had taken advantage of a flawed attempt by the ITC to replicate the revenue beast that had been ITV in the 1960s/70s/80s.


Granada were perhaps captured by this utopian dream; as were late-comers Carlton & Sky/BSkyB, believing it was a new 'cash cow'.

The investment in technology to supply the DTT service simply wasn't there, and it was inferior to others on offer, especially after BSkyB left the consortium.

In 1996 I went for Analogue Cable - I lived in Stockton-on-Tees, and the provider was Comcast. There was a local perception that people with the huge Sky dishes (of the time) were chavs, and BSB squarial owners were snobs. SO I went for Cable.

I then moved to Plymouth. Obviously, many people here were chavs Very Happy so I went for Sky when I moved here and got this place in 1998 as DTT reception was dreadful, and Telewest/Eurobell hadn't even cabled the new houses (something Virgin didn't manage until last year). Within 18 months all the houses in my road had Sky mini-dishes. (I was no longer a chav)

Both ITV Digital and NTL/Telewest (as it was by then) had lost the march on BSkyB, who had very deep pockets and were giving away very expensive DVB-S equipment in preparation for a long-term gain.

BSkyB played the long game. ITV Digital didn't, and frankly, I'm surprised they survived as a viable parent company ITV afterwards. They initiated bad strategies, made very bad commercial decisions, and just about lasted until now.

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