UK broadcasters planning to offer digital TV this autumn risk confusing their viewers unless programming is improved and the marketing message made clear, according to a top TV regulator.
Peter Rogers, chief executive of the Independent Television Commission, speaking at the Guardian Internation Television Festival in Edinburgh this week, said: "It is crucial that the message is clear to consumers."
If it is not, Rogers believes viewers will delay their choice and it will be impossible for all the providers to survive.
Digital service providers will need to persuade consumers to pay for their programming, so choices will have to be improved or they will not get the volume of viewers they require, explained Rogers.
Currently, only 30 per cent of UK consumers pay for TV channels.
The UK is widely expected to take a lead on the rest of the world when it launches digital TV in its satellite, cable and terrestrial versions this autumn. Consumers will be offered a large number of channels with improved sound and image plus interactive services, claim the providers.
BSkyB - 40 per cent owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp - will compete with a 30-channel terrestrial service due to be launched this autumn by ONdigital, a venture between Carlton Communications and Granada. Cable and Wireless Communications plans to launch its 200-channel digital cable service next year.
The government support for the move from analogue to digital is so strong that the BBC has said it will offer digital programmes from the end of this month. They will be included in the paid licence services.
BSkyB is the only provider yet to announce its pricing structure, which it says will run in packages from #6.99 to #29.99. Analysts are expecting its competitors to follow a similar package/pricing strategy.
Cable and Wireless has just launched an agressively priced Internet access service, which it plans to offer along with digital TV and telephone services.
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