Web Letter

June 2011

DigiTAG seeks to inform members and non-members about important developments in the digital terrestrial television market. Each month, DigiTAG distributes its web letter with news updates and further exploration of one topic.

To subscribe to the DigiTAG Web Letter, send an email to the DigiTAG Project Office.

DTT in France

Debate rages whether to expand the number of free-to-air channels on the DTT platform in France. Polls have been published to support both sides of the debate with one survey [1] showing that 69% of French television viewers are satisfied with the current number of television channels and another survey [2] showing that 87% of viewers would like more channels on the DTT platform.

On one side of the debate, the incumbent commercial broadcasters, led by TF1 and M6, are reluctant to enlarge the offer of free-to-air channels available. They are opposed by some of the new broadcasters to the terrestrial platform, such as NRJ, who would like the opportunity to widen their service offering. To further complicate the debate, the pay television broadcaster, Canal+, has announced plans to launch a new free-to-air channel by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the organization Tous Au Numérique has been successful in its efforts thus far to complete analogue switch-off by the deadline of 30 November 2011. With analogue switch-off soon to be completed, frequencies can be made available for new services, including more television services or LTE services. Already, the government has invited candidates to tender for telecom licenses in the 800 MHz frequency band.

The so-called bonus channels

As part of its legislation on digital switchover adopted in 2007, the government granted the three incumbent broadcasters on the analogue terrestrial television platform, TF1, M6 and Canal+, an extra television service slot on the DTT platform to be made available after the completion of analogue switch-off in November 2011.

According to the government, these licenses were granted to compensate the broadcasters for relinquishing their analogue terrestrial television licenses prior to the license expiration date. However, the broadcasters new to the DTT platform, also known as the "new entrants," have opposed this allocation and have instead called on the government to grant all broadcasters an additional television service slot on the platform.

Meanwhile the European Commission has taken an interest in the issue. Last November, it notified the government that the attribution of these so-called bonus channels did not respect the "objective, transparent and non-discriminatory" principles set out in the Telecom Directive of 2002.  It has remained unconvinced by the government's defense efforts and could refer the issue to the European Court of Justice should the French government not backtrack.

Position of the broadcasters

Given the current state of the advertising market and the fragmentation of the viewing audience, many broadcasters have expressed their doubts about increasing the number of free-to-air channels on the DTT platform. Yet, to comply with European legislation, the government could decide to grant further licenses on the DTT platform and thereby increase the total number of free-to-air channels from 19 to 25.

New competition is not welcome at this time. The audience share of the incumbent broadcasters has fallen while that of the "new entrant" broadcasters has increased. In April 2011, these new broadcasters held a cumulative audience share of 22.8% up from 19.7% in April 2010. Meanwhile, the incumbent free-to-air broadcasters including TF1 and France Télévisions have had their audience share decrease.

Recently the head of TF1, Nonce Paolini declared it unacceptable that the pay broadcaster Canal+ wanted to use its "bonus" channel to launch a free-to-air service, Canal 20. According to Paolini, Canal+ should instead use its bonus channel to provide another pay service. As a result, several broadcasters have called for a moratorium on new services on the DTT platform. This moratorium could last until 2016 when the public service broadcaster France Télévisions ceases all advertisements on its channels.

The broadcast regulator CSA will likely serve as the arbitrator. It has launched a consultation on the future evolution of the DTT platform and seeks opinions on such topics as the launch of new services, including more television programme services and 3DTV, the transition to more efficient technology such as DVB-T2 and MPEG-4 AVC, HDTV, and the so-called bonus channels allocated to the incumbent broadcasters. The consultation is open until 30 June.

Progress on analogue switch-off

On 15 June, the region of the Rhone completed analogue switch-off, making it the 10th region to complete analogue switch-off in 2011. The pace of analogue switch-off has been swift. Out of a total of 25 regions, 10 regions completed the process in 2010 and a further 14 regions will do so in 2011. According to national legislation, the process will be completed by 30 November 2011.

The areas in dark blue have yet to complete analogue switch-off

The process began in 2008 with a pilot in the city of Coulommiers and its surrounding region and was followed by two further pilots in the regions of Kaysersberg and Cherbourg in 2009. Paris and its surrounding region, with over 11 million residents, completed analogue switch-off on 8 March 2011.

Languedoc Roussillon will be the last mainland region to complete analogue switch-off on 29 November 2011. In addition, all of the French oversea territories, including Mayotte, Reunion and Guadeloupe, will complete analogue switch-off by 30 November 2011. Already, the CSA has recommended that the overseas territories have access to services on at least two DTT multiplexes. Currently, only one multiplex has been guaranteed.

The broadcaster Canal+ had its analogue terrestrial license in the VHF Band III expire in 2010. As a result it proceeded with the switch-off of its pay analogue service, Canal+, in 2009 and 2010. These frequencies have subsequently been allocated for digital radio services although it is not clear when such services will be launched.


Source: Natalie Mouyal, DigiTAG Project Office


[1] See NPA Conseil and Institut CSA survey.
[2] See TNS-Sofres survey.

About DigiTAG

DigiTAG aims to encourage and facilitate the implementation and introduction of digital terrestrial television services using the Digital Video Broadcasting Project's Standard (DVB-T). It has some 50 members from broadcasting, network operators, regulatory, and manufacturing organisations throughout Europe and beyond.
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United Kingdom - ASO completed in Scotland

Scotland has become the first fully digital nation in the United Kingdom. It completed digital switchover on 22 June at the Kirkfieldband transmitter near Lanark.

DTT services are available to 98.5% of the population in Scotland.

Source: Digital UK website

Singapore - Government seeks to migrate to DVB-T2

Plans are underway to launch services using the DVB-T2 standard in Singapore.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) is currently preparing a nationwide DVB-T2 trial in September. It selected TDF subsidiary, MEDIA BROADCAST, to operate the trial. This trial will be used to define the DVB-T2 network parameters.

Source: Singapore Business News

France - First phase of ASO completed in Rhône-Alpes

The region of Rhône-Alpes in the eastern part of France, near the Swiss and Italian border, has begun analogue switch-off.

During the night between 14/15 June, analogue channels were switched off for 2 million households. In a second phase, analogue switch-off will be completed in the region and affect a further 500,000 households. 

Source: Tous au numérique website

Finland - Government to tender DTT broadcast licenses

The government is inviting broadcasters to tender for capacity available on the DTT platform.

Capacity has been made available on existing multiplexes. The licenses are valid until the end of 2016. Interested broadcasters must submit their applications by 1 August. . 

Source: Ministry of Transport & Communications website

New Zealand - ASO to be completed by end 2013

The Minister of Broadcasting, Jonathan Coleman, has confirmed the dates for analogue switch-off in New Zealand. The process will be completed by December 2013.

Analogue switch-off will take place in four stages. Hawke's Bay and the West Coast will switch-off analogue services on 30 September 2012. This will be followed by South Island on 28 April 2013 and Lower North Island, Taranaki and Gisborne on 29 September 2013. Finally, the remainder of the North Island will switch-off on 1 December 2013.

Source: Freeview NZ website

Portugal - ASO communication campaign begins in Nazaré

The communications regulator ANACOM has announced that it will begin providing information on digital switchover in the region of Nazaré.

This is the third region that will undertake digital switchover, with analogue switch-off scheduled for 13 October 2011. 

Source: Anacom website

Slovakia - Analogue switch-off underway

Analogue switch-off is underway in Slovakia. The process began on 9 March and will be completed in August 2011 for the services of the public service broadcaster STV.

Currently, a temporary DTT multiplex with over 90% population coverage provides viewers with replacement services for the analogue terrestrial television platform.

Source: STV

Austria - ASO completed

Analogue switch-off has been completed in Austria. On 6 June, the last regions, Mariazell and Mürztal, switched off their analogue services.

Digital switchover began in 2006 with the launch of DVB-T services while analogue switch-off began in 2007. 

Source: Der Standard

United States - 15% DTT penetration

According to a report published by Knowledge Networks, 15% of television households rely on the terrestrial platform for their primary television services.

The report estimates that 46 million Americans rely on the DTT platform compared with 42 million one year ago. Among the DTT-dependent households, 23% have an annual income of less than $30,000.

Source: Broadcasting & Cable