Where Are Our Extra FTA Digital Channels?

freeview channels.pngYesterday may have been the first day of 2009, but it was also the first day the Australian free-to-air TV networks could legally begin broadcasting a second digital SD channel. But here we are, 1.5 days into the new year, and none of the FTA networks have actually made good on their chance to launch a second channel and according to the Australian, aren’t likely to for several more months.

The Oz quotes Foxtel’s Adam Suckling, Director of policy and corporate affairs: “Seven, Nine and Ten have had more than two years to plan and launch one new digital channel each on January 1, 2009… But they have chosen not to do so.” And while this is just another barb in the war of words between FTA and Pay TV in this country, there is a very important point being made here: why haven’t we got extra channels today?

The answer is mostly economics, but if you go back a couple of years to the launch of the FTA HD channels, you’ll also see that there’s sure to be some unhealthy competition between the networks at play here. When HD launched, Ten announced its plans first, then Channel 7 launched their channel a few days before 10’s channel went live so they could claim to be “first”. Channel 9, meanwhile, refused to offer any comment about their plans for fear of letting the other networks know what they were doing. So far, only 10 has announced anything – they’ll be launching a dedicated HD sports channel in April. But expect Seven and Nine to try and pip them at the post.

Of course all of this wouldn’t matter, but for the fact that the networks are “trying” to work together for the FreeView market. Considering they’re already marketing FreeView to have 15 channels, yet that figure includes the new multichannel stations, the networks should really be working together, pro-actively, to try and launch and promote FTA TV. From personal experience, the new FreeView campaign is causing nothing but confusion in the marketplace, judging by the influx of questions I’ve been getting from non-techy friends and family.

Meanwhile, according to the Australian’s article, Foxtel are planning on launching another 20 digital channels this year. Hopefully the majority of them are in HD…

[The Australian]