Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BPN1070 Of digital theme channels and vodcasts

When the IPTV and digital cable channels came into fashion, many broadcast companies thought that they would have extra audience and extra income. Now after two years the broadcast companies start asking themselves whether digital channels are worthwhile and profitable. Some of the companies look towards vodcasts, but others regularly change the channels. A small case study of the Dutch broadcast industry.

The Dutch public broadcast companies launched 17 digital channels since 2006 under the name of Channel 4, varying from Dutch language music to religious programs, Omga TV. One of the oldest channels is the pop music channel, 3voor12, and the history channel. In most cases the channels are a repackaging line for broadcasts, which have been aired once and sometimes repeated. The digital channels are a way to feed the long tail of a programs’ life time.

While the public broadcast companies thought that digital channels would be a success and would proliferate, they have reviewed the phenomenon and concluded that the distribution costs are high and the viewing audience figures are low. The budget for a digital channel varies between 0,5 and 1,3 million euro. In total the public broadcast companies had a budget of 13 million euro last year. There are rumours that seven digital channels will be abandoned and others merged or limited in time.

The Dutch commercial broadcast companies had already put the breaks on the development of digital channels. They were hesitant on the investment and the extra value of the programs. However companies like Discovery and National Geographic look to have more success. Their brand is a seal for quality and the programs have not been seen in The Netherlands before. But they have also their problems as is clear from Discovery. In less than a year they had to finetune their policy. Discovery presented Discovery Civilisation so far. But since last week Discovery is presenting Discovery World, a mix of qualitative and informative programs on the world. Discovery World is available through all the cable companies and by IPTV companies like KPN and Tele2.

This anti-digital-channel trend might have many causes. Just a repetition of programs, regardless of their quality, does not seem to be enough. Discovery and National Geographic seem to indicate that success is in branding, quality of programs, air time and their availability. On the other hand the anti-digital-channel trend might indicate that people do not have time to view the digital channels. This indication might be supported by the beginning vodcast trend. Just like CBS News en NBC Nightly News Dutch news programs are experimenting with vodcasts. One of the late night talkshows had already a vodcast of five minutes on YouTube, being available the next day at midday. But now the editorial staff wants to offer edited hightlights from the show. The trend can also bee seen in the TV programs itself. The Dutch public news show NOS Journaal has a 60 second summary of the news.

Blog Posting Number 1070

Tags: broadcast, digital channel, vodcast

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