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Friday, February 16, 2007

OFCOM enquiry on Sky DTT platform proposal

OFCOM have announced they are going to investigate the proposed Sky DTT service with the following terms of reference:

Firstly, the impact on consumers of Sky's proposal to use MPEG4 compression technology via new set-top boxes, in order to increase the amount of content which can be carried. Ofcom would need to assess:
  • The potential benefit of a rapid migration from the current compression standard MPEG2, to MPEG4 which will ultimately increase the number of channels available on digital terrestrial television;
  • The potential detriment associated with a reduction in the number of channels received by existing set-top boxes or digital televisions;
  • The risk that existing set-top boxes or digital televisions might be incompatible with multiplexes broadcast using a combination of MPEG2 and MPEG4 coding;
  • The overall effect on consumer confidence in the digital switchover process.
Secondly, whether any variation to the channel line-up might unacceptably diminish the appeal of the channels to a variety of tastes and interests and whether a reduction in the current range of free-to-air channels would be compensated for by the proposed introduction of the new pay television channels.

Finally, the effect of any change to existing licence conditions and / or the need to include any new licence conditions to ensure fair and effective competition for the benefit of consumers.

Personally, I’ve thought that Sky DTT plans are twofold:
  • throw the spanner in the works for TopUpTV and Setanta. The last thing Sky needs right now is another competitive PayTV platform; and
  • prove compression works over DTT and therefore add weight for the PSBs needs no more spectrum and can broadcast HDTV through existing allocated spectrum.
Without wishing to second guess the enquiry, I suspect that OFCOM are going to reject allowing Sky to develop a new payTV platform on DTT and therefore Sky will come right back with TopUpTV shouldn’t be allowed either then. In other words only half a victory.

Is it just me or are Sky getting really good at spoiling tactics?