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RTL Sounds Death Knell For German DTT: Make Way For Mobile

by David Mercer | 1月 17, 2013

A significant statement on the future of digital terrestrial TV came yesterday via German online publication W&V. RTL, the leading commercial broadcaster in both Germany and Europe as a whole, will begin to remove its leading channels from the DTT (DVB-T) service beginning in June this year in Munich. By 2015 the RTL, Vox, Super RTL and RTL II channels will no longer be available on any DTT service throughout Germany.

RTL’s Marc Schröder, who is responsible for RTL Deutschland’s strategic business development, gives a number of reasons for this decision. The two key factors are political uncertainty and unproven business model. The fact that terrestrial frequencies are under pressure to be used for mobile services now makes it impossible for RTL to justify long-term investment in digital terrestrial television services. In any case, DTT currently only accounts for 4.2% of RTL’s audience: the vast majority of viewers use cable, satellite or IPTV services. By RTL’s estimation DTT is therefore by far the most expensive broadcasting method: thirty times more expensive than satellite.

RTL also dismisses DVB-T2 technology (which offers greater compression and the potential for more HD channels) as a possible DTT saviour. While DVB-T2 would allow for encrypted channels and pay services, RTL sees no possibility that the media authorities support this concept of DTT’s future.

The importance of RTL’s decision is underlined by our ConsumerMetrix research on Germany’s favourite TV channels. The RTL channel ranks only slightly behind pubcasters ARD1 and ZDF, with 58% of Germans saying it is a “must have” channel. Vox rates at 33% and RTL2 at 19%. DTT is likely to be badly affected once these channels disappear.

 We have long debated the future role of DTT in the overall communications landscape. As I have often noted in client meetings, if we were to design the entire system using a blank piece of paper we would never have used wireless services for broadcasting television to fixed antennas: wireless networks are fundamentally more suited to mobile applications whereas fixed, in-home devices should be served by wired or non-mobile networks. DTT is the evolution of a legacy model stretching back some eighty years and still has a strong role to play in many parts of the world as a result. But RTL has cast significant doubt on its future in a major market and it may not be long before we hear similar discussions in other parts of the world.

 

David Mercer

 

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