Part 1. EUROPEAN DIGITAL TV – A Decade On = No Business Model = Over Standardisation

European Digital Television cannot in any way, especially in today’s modern multimedia market-place, be considered a roaring success.  Why not?  Well for one thing it is a highly fragmented market at both International and National level.   The problem is that we are now in a purely technology led marketplace.  Whilst we wait for the next “gadget” like the iPAD to appear we have fallen into this technology spiral in the TV Software business as well.   An announcement for “Holographic TV”  from Japan this very day is a clear indicator that we are in technology tidalwave.   Tom Thomas at ArqMedia recently left a blog comment here which clearly sums it all up.  He stated, “we are in a market where the technology capabilities have overtaken the actual business demands/models”.  It is plainly evident that we can build it but can we use it all to make a business and sustain a veritable long term business model? As the business models cannot be found we continue not to deploy services whilst inventing new technologies to solve the same Advanced Services needs as the years go by.

A recap shows what a state we have gotten ourselves into.  In Digital TV terms Satellite was the front runner in the move to Digital Broadcasting.  Differentiation for the Operators meant not using the same Conditional Access as your competitor, nor the same Interactive Middleware engine to offer Advanced or Value Added Services.  What we also saw was in the business mix a leaning towards business nationalisation where Scandinavian CA, French CA took up initial residence in its country of origin.  Big satellite Companies chose “local” technologies and built out in their regional market in their national tongue.  Companies like Canal+, OpenTV, Liberate and NDS thrived in the PayTV arena.  It took a while but ROI became paramount.  Many businesses failed or struggled to grow as it got harder and harder to stay competitive.  The market fragmentation was already proving to be an Achilles heel!

With market growth in mind many Companies moved into the Digital Terrestrial Television market and we saw OnDigital in the UK and and Quiero TV in Spain offer up a PayTV service which crashed and burned.  The Business Model just did not work in a market where consumers were getting (FTA) FREE to Air TV!  Unfortunately the DTT sector, many years on, is still suffering badly from waivering business models and too much technology fighting to provide the Advanced Interactive Television Services environment.   At the same time the industry calls out for “Standardisation” and has due to the lack of business model has also become “over-standardised” because whilst no deployments take place of already designated standards engineers need something to do; so they invent or believe they have found new mousetraps to answer the issues.  But technology will not provide the answer!  The business model of Free to Air Broadcast is hard to quantify.  Advertising driven in the main and suffering during economic downturn.  Public Service Broadcasters have no way to create revenue to justify developments.   The BBC hails its Interactive offering a success but fails to mention that it’s driven in a business model that gets “money for nothing and delivers tricks for free”.

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