Sky and the digital revolution
A Sky case study

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Page 1: Introduction

Sky 4 Image 4Television is moving into a radical new era, heralding the most exciting televisual developments of your lifetime. Increasingly viewers will take charge of their own entertainment in the home. Digital television will give viewers more opportunity to watch what they want, when they want. There are a host of new applications involved with the digital revolution, which are set out in the case study.

This case study focuses on how BSkyB is driving the digital revolution and examines the marketing activities taking place alongside the advent of digital television.

Digital television is the latest development in fast moving TV technology and is arguably the most exciting invention since John Logie Baird first dreamed up TV. Until now consumers have had to rely on TV signals which are beamed from transmitters and travel by analogue waves. Analogue systems, however, can suffer from a fuzzy picture or vertical banding in areas where the signal is weak. Pictures created from a decoded digital signal will be crystal clear in all instances.

In essence, digital television is very simple. TV signals, that have been compressed using digital compression routines, are beamed out through the usual distribution means (satellite, cable or terrestrial broadcast) and then decompressed by a box plugged into the television. Huge amounts of information can be squeezed into a digital broadcast, and that essentially means many more channels to choose from.

The recent deregulation of the TV market has resulted in a channel explosion. As a result, the number of available analogue frequencies to broadcast on is fast disappearing. The increasing number of channels can therefore only be accommodated digitally. The 40 existing terrestrial TV frequencies could support up to 240 digital TV services - just imagine the variety that this will present!

Digital TV will be the norm sooner than you think - the Government has decreed that analogue transmissions will be switched off sometime between 2000 and 2013. This means that after the switch off date, if you want to watch TV, you will have to view programmes through digital.

There are three systems (also known as platforms) for providing digital television. These are terrestrial, cable and satellite.

  1. Digital terrestrial television is received via an aerial and set-top box. Initially the system will offer about 15 channels and will be available in about 70% of the country.
  2. Digital cable television will build on the recent growth in cable television in this country.  Cable is currently available to about 50% of homes although only 20% of total homes are actually connected. This service will offer a similar number and selection of channels compared to satellite although full details are not yet clear.
  3. Digital satellite television has built on BSkyB’s success as the providers of satellite TV over the past ten years. This system currently offers the greatest choice of viewing and is available everywhere in the country. The digital version of the satellite dish is sleeker and smaller (black and elliptical) than current dishes and reception is via the dish and a set-top box. Digital satellite television offers up to 200 channels as well as a number of interactive services which will be available soon.

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