Monthly Archives: May 2010

CSA takes action to boost pay-TV and HD’s fortunes on French DTT platform

The French regulator, the CSA, will shortly advertise three new pay-TV and two new free-to-air HD slots on its DTT platform. Meanwhile, France Ô, the public service channel targeted at viewers from the country’s overseas territories, will be rolled out nationally in the coming weeks.

The decisions result from a public consultation triggered by two pay-DTT channels, AB1 and Canal J, handing back their licences last year.

The new services will launch next year, and will be spread across the six existing multiplexes (R1-R6) as well as two new ones, R7 and R8, which will be opened up as a result of analogue television being switched off region-by-region between now and the end of 2011.

Farncombe’s interpretation of today’s CSA announcement is that the new DTT multiplex configuration will be as in the table below:





France 2 i>télé Canal+ HD M6
France 3 BFM TV C+ Cinéma W9
France 3
Direct 8 C+ Sport Paris 1ère
France 5 Gulli Planète NT1
France Ô Europe 2 TV TPS Star Arte HD
LCP France 24 New pay-TV slot TBA





France 2 HD TF1 New pay-TV slot TBA Gifted channel to TF1 TBA
TF1 HD LCI New pay-TV slot TBA Gifted channel to M6 TBA
M6 HD Eurosport New FTA HD slot TBA Gifted channel to Canal+ TBA
TMC New FTA HD slot TBA Other channels TBA

Source: CSA, Farncombe analysis (Note: Pay-DTT channels in italics, HD channels in bold)

The allocation of three new pay-DTT channels is designed to boost the attractiveness of pay-TV on the French DTT platform, which has so far performed poorly.Meanwhile, the creation of new free-to-air HD channels should make it easier for the DTT platform to compete with satellite and cable, which both enjoy superior bandwidth and much larger HD offers.

French rules which mandate the inclusion of HD DTT tuners in TV sets already favour the platform. With 46.1% of French homes owning an HD-compatible TV display at the end of 2009, the new services should be able to benefit from a mature addressable market.

ISDB-T expansion around the World – It takes many to Ginga

After choosing the Japanese ISDB-T standard for their digital terrestrial TV (DTT) system, the Brazilian authorities have invested much money and diplomatic effort in spreading the Brazilian variant ISDB-Tb and the Ginga middleware to other countries. They were partially successful: Ecuador has recently announced it will adopt ISDB-Tb, after Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela. A few African countries, including South Africa, are reconsidering their previous inclination to adopt the European DVB-T standard.

However, political will is not enough to convince Brazilians it is worth buying a set-top box to watch DTT. Despite tax incentives, quotas on TVs, incentives for mobile TV handsets and intensive marketing, Brazilians continue to be confused about what ‘DTT’ means.

Farncombe recently visited several large electronics stores in Brazil, and despite the availability of integrated DTT TV sets for sale, the vast majority of salesmen confused DTT with high definition or with digital pay-TV (pay-TV operators use the European DVB standard).

Three years after launch, Farncombe estimates that less than 2% of households view DTT services, and most DTT tuner sales are “accidental”, as they are integrated into large TV sets (in which DTT tuners are mandated), mobile and portable devices.

Farncombe believes that the key reasons for the challenges faced by Brazilian DTT are:

  • Lack of exclusive DTT content: DTT services are HD versions of analogue TV ones and most cities with DTT coverage only receive the top one or two broadcasters.
  • Competition from pay-TV services: the launch of new DTH operators has decreased the pay-TV entry price and driven a 20% increase in the number of pay-TV subscribers in the last 12 months. In addition, the focus on HD as DTT’s differentiator makes DTT attractive only to HD-set-owning higher-income households, which are more likely to subscribe to pay-TV.

In spite of the slow adoption of fixed DTT in Brazil, mobile operators have launched several handset models with integrated DTT tuners and broadcasters are investing in in-fillers to improve DTT mobile reception. Meanwhile, other countries have learnt from the Brazilian experience and are allowing multichannel DTT and subsidising decoders to create an initial viewing base for DTT services.

Farncombe’s experience advising broadcasters and governments planning their transition to DTT has taught us that careful planning to ensure the platform’s attractiveness to viewers is more important than the choice of transmission standard (ISDB-T, ISDB-Tb, DVB-T or DVB-T2), which can have very similar end-user functionality depending on the network configuration. Technical specifications that are not mandated and officially certified are often ignored by most vendors, and the high degree of fragmentation of the receivers’ base makes it commercially unfeasible to offer advanced TV services.

To know more about Farncombe’s experience in DTT transition please contact us at

Red-button advertising ends on Sky – but where does Anytime+ fit in?

BSkyB’s sales-house, Sky Media, has decided to end ‘red-button’ advertising after nine years.  Sky is one of the best-known pay-TV operators offering this application, according to which viewers press the red button on their Sky remote control during a commercial spot to gain extra information about the advertised product, or to receive a brochure or sample in return for entering their details. At its peak in 2006, 160 such campaigns were running on the red-button service.

However, the service was always clunky – particularly when trying to enter personal details via the remote control – and the advent of green-button ‘bookable’ advertising, which allows viewers easily to watch and access long-form ads recorded on their PVRs or in parallel broadcast streams, has rendered the old service obsolete.

While hybridisation of Sky’s HD platform with broadband might have rescued red-button advertising by increasing its functionality and sophistication, comments made last week by Sky confirm that the priority is to use the IP connectivity of its installed HD base to launch a ‘true’ VOD service (‘Anytime+’) later this year.

Sky’s next generation of advertising technology will instead exploit the partitioned hard drive incorporated into later models of the Sky+ box to deliver targeted ad substitution, along the lines of the Sky AdSmart technology currently embedded in its online Sky Player product. This ‘push’-based targeting is unlikely to be very granular, perhaps only addressing homes by zone or region.

It will be interesting to see how Anytime+ integrates this model when it surfaces this year. Because of the quality mis-match between ads delivered over the air and over-the-top video, targeted advertising on VOD pre-roll ads is more likely to be inserted at source. But whether BSkyB’s aim is to make such ads more tightly personalised remains unclear.