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Digital TV is GO!

It seems nowadays all our traditional media are slowly yet surely gravitating towards digital technology. Newspapers are strengthening their online distribution models (with the iPad becoming a device of greater significance than was first thought), and Radio is transitioning to its own digital service. TV is no different. I thought this week that I’d take a look at digital TV in Australia, what it means for everyone involved, and also make sure you know when your area is switching over.

If you’re reading this, there’s a high possibility that you may already have digital TV in your home. According to the latest reports, “75% of Australian households are now watching digital TV channels.” That is a few, but to be fair, we have had the option of going digital since January 1st, 2001. Starting out with set top boxes, we have gradually seen digital tuners built into new TV sets, with High Definition or HD following suit, providing crisp images and improved sound. 3D is now the flavour of the month, and its long term future as part of mainstream broadcasts remains to be seen.

Let’s break it down a bit- why is digital TV going to be a positive for everyone?

First off, there’s going to be, and already is, a wide variety of new channels popping up. While they began as simply providing a digital service of the analogue channel, we’re now seeing new channels with more targeted content- OneHD is for sports fans, GEM is primarily for women, 7TWO chases the 25+ adult, 7mate is obviously targeting the male demographic, while Eleven is aiming to capture the 13-29 year-old market. This is a win for viewers- we can now get a huge amount of shows we would enjoy, all in the one place. It also allows for shows which previously would have been left alone by the free-to-air stations to be aired, giving us greater variety.

Further to this, sports coverage in particular is something which I feel is going to be a big winner as a result of digital TV. With the additional channels, there can be more shown free-to-air without disrupting the viewing of non-sport fans. Rugby League is adequately covered in the partnership between Nine and Foxtel, but perhaps with the television rights deal up for grabs soon, a greater presence on free-to-air TV might be what the game needs. There needs to be an increase in the exposure of clubs that, under the current agreement, find themselves on Foxtel far too often. The same goes for the AFL, and 7mate would be a logical fit. One interesting case is the A-League. The dilemma here is that without Foxtel, we probably wouldn’t have the A-League. But, for the league to grow, I feel that at least one game a week has to be shown free-to-air. SBS I’m sure would gladly accommodate this, so it’s something that I hope can happen in the coming years.

Advertisers also would be quite happy to see digital TV beginning to flourish here. With the new, demographic-specific channels, they can pump out ads 24/7 to the audience they want to attract. While not quite as specific and guaranteed as advertising online, and on Facebook in particular, it is still a far better option than splashing out on a big budget ad that may only reach a small segment of your target demo. With some companies reluctant to move their ads online, it presents an interesting avenue that I’m sure many will pursue.

All these new channels are great, but they need people to run them, right? Thankfully, there are plenty of people looking to get themselves in the TV business, so these new channels provide more opportunities for those in the industry, or those looking to join it. While a lot of the content currently is bought from overseas, or are repeats (or both), I think that there’ll be a greater emphasis on Australian-made content into the future, so those looking to produce new content could be catered for as well.

Lastly, let’s talk about when the analogue signal will be turned off. Already in Mildura and Broken Hill, the analogue system has been shut down. There’s going to be a slow transition across the country, finishing with Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, and rural areas on December 31, 2013. The Federal Government site that covers everything you need to know about digital TV can be found here. It includes a rollout map, so you can make sure that you’re locked and loaded. Of course, as a Who’s Playing Who? reader, you’re pretty switched on (no pun intended) and I’m sure you’re already set to go. If that’s the case, then you’re probably already enjoying the benefits that digital TV provides. If you haven’t, get to it, because it’s certainly a very interesting time in TV Land.

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