Ofcom have revealed that 75% of households in the UK have gone digital, that is to say these homes have at least one TV that is connected to either a freeview box, Sky “Digi-kal” or some sort of digital cable hookup.
Digital Spy report that as a result of this, viewers are turning away from the five major terrestrial channels, in favour of smaller digital niche programming.
In my opinion, this is bad news for the future of UK programming. Thanks to the demise of OnDigital, the UK is one of the few countries that has a free digital terrestrial proposition, meaning that smaller channels don’t get any subscription revenue, and can’t afford any sort of quality original programming. Without any compelling homegrown shows, this has allowed the existing terrestrial networks to use their own multichannel offerings (ITV2, E4, to a lessser extent five US) to extend their footprint with reruns, imports and extended versions of existing shows.
Ratings wise, the aforementioned are now the top digital channel offerings, mainly because of their constant promotion and branding on their major networks. This makes it harder for the smaller channels to compete for ad revenue, meaning they try to come up with different ways of increasing revenue.
As these ideas fail, more people are turning away from traditional forms of TV, as programming becomes ever more cheap and tawdry.. and with less viewers, les ad revenue equals poorer programming.. I just can’t see a way out of this spiral (of shame).
When I started this article, I thought I had the solution, but I don’t. I see a future of endless phone-in and auction channels, gambling and pr0n.. to the detriment of quality dramas and comedy… damn I’ll even take a well thought out reality program over ITV play!