CLIVE CROUCH: Sky channels and Smart TV

The ever changing world of television has been anticipating the arrival of Google TV and You View, but as yet the promised product has yet to arrive.
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Meanwhile, in the absence of Google TV and You View, the power and influence of the Sky EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) and a channels listing number remains crucial to a channel's development and commercial prospects. The repertories of channels competing for children's viewing changed dramatically 15 years ago with the arrival of Turner and Viacom. Not only did Viacom bring Nickelodeon to the UK, but also MTV.

The latter cast their bait of music videos competing for children's attention and indeed capturing many of them. The changing media landscape inevitably has its casualties. Publishing together with television has had to deal with the expectations of a younger generation who are reluctant to pay for entertainment. Add to that a cultural shift with a huge appetite for celebrity news, neither the publisher or broadcaster can retain its viewers and readers with just music or a heritage of stories and agony aunts. 

Sugar magazine came into the market positioning itself as a slightly edgy girls title ageing up from Girl Talk. Sugar soon became the market leader in teenage monthlies. Last month with a circulation of 113,000 Sugar closed.

The music giant MTV has reinvented itself in the digital world of television to protect its future by being able to compete in a new genre. Having closed three of their four studios MTV has moved from music provider to entertainment provider.

Re-enter the Sky EPG. Following a reported one-off seven figure sum, a national outdoor advertising campaign announcing its move from channel 350 on the Music EPG to 126 on Entertainment, MTV's audience share grew by 80 per cent and its viewing figures almost doubled. Eight channels bid for these three EPG slots and MTV were one of the four successful applicants. By fortunate coincidence the other successful bidders were all commercially managed by Sky Media. The cost was rumoured to be £3.5 million over five years. MTV has put its business in a far stronger position ahead of those future delivery systems from Google TV and You View.

In the publishing sector Sugar magazine decided the title was no longer viable. The publisher had the foresight to move into the digital space with Sugarcape.com and has a thriving business with 430,000 unique users.

In the same week that those EPG uplifts took place for MTV another 'Sugar Daddy' is still as popular as ever 40 years on from its TV debut. In the BARB recorded Top Ten Comedy programmes that same week Harry Hill was number one, Jason Manford's Comedy Rocks at number five and there at number ten, just behind John Bishop, sits Dad's Army. The Platoon are still rocking to 1.7 million viewers, no sign of any digital repositioning in Warmington on Sea as the Home Guard hold their territory. Let the battle commence, bring on Google TV, bring on You View. The digital broadcast spectrum really is an exciting place to be.

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