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The Future of Broadcasting: Day One

by David Mercer | 6月 30, 2009

So far we have not been disappointed at the IEA/Marketforce's Future of Broadcasting conference, even though the precise questions I suggested have not been addressed. We did, as expected, have to suffer the well-worn cliché, courtesy of Channel Four’s Anne Bulford, that the UK has the “best broadcasting” in the world. If somebody could offer a quantitative measure to prove this I might start to believe it. The battlelines have, as usual, been drawn between Sky on the one hand, and everyone else on the other, although Michael Grade, Chairman of ITV, in which Sky is a major shareholder, did a good job of supporting Sky’s view that there is too much regulation in broadcasting in general. As Grade said, “it’s not as though broadcasting is a life-threatening industry, like air travel or drugs”. Grade described the process involved in getting business deals done as a “nightmare involving years of lobbying”, because of the grip Parliament has on the broadcasting industry. Sky, in the form of COO Mike Darcey, has done its usual excellent job of standing up to the forces lined up against it (as it sees it). The key question, from Ofcom’s Peter Philips in the audience, was “why should Sky not be regulated like the telecoms industry?”. Darcey’s response: “because, unlike Sky, BT did not build its own network – the government did”. In that response lies the nub of the regulatory and competition issue in the UK and in many other markets around the world. Should content be split from the network? Ofcom has indicated clearly that it does not see this as an appropriate solution, instead preferring to concentrate on the issue of the rates at which Sky wholesales its channels to other service providers. Darcey today indicated clearly that it would take Ofcom to court if it went ahead with proposals to price-regulate Sky’s wholesale business. At the same time, Sky recommends that competitors, such as ITV and Channels 4 and 5, consider becoming pay TV providers as advertising revenues plummet. But competitors have already failed at this in the UK: first, Channel Four’s abandoned its premium movie service; and now Setanta has had to withdraw its pay sports channels. With a few minor exceptions (including adult content) there are no successful pay TV competitors to Sky in the UK. Sky’s success has been built on its control of network, technology platform and content. Unless another firm is prepared to make a similar investment, or content is forcibly split from the network, it is unlikely that a serious alternative will emerge. Twitter: twitter.com/DavidMercer_SA Client Reading: Digital Media Devices Global Market Report Add to Technorati Favorites
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