Friday, December 17, 2004

Media end-around

Back at the European Media Leaders Summit last week, I made the point that one serious risk to the IP triple play (and indeed to cable and satellite) was that content owners or aggregators decide to go direct. Net Imperative alerted me today to the move by Classic FM TV toward just such a model, sponsored by Volkswagen. For those not resident in the UK, Classic FM is an immensely popular commercial classical music station with seemingly ubiquitous national availability (based on my travels), due to its affiliation with parent company GWR, which also owns 63% of Digital One, the UK's only commercial digital radio multiplex. The Classic FM TV channel is already present on cable and satellite in the UK, but this is interesting in being a broadband-targeted service sponsored exclusively by a single sponsor (a single product, in fact, the Phaeton). This concept begs a lot interesting questions, and the more this happens, the more subscribers to conventional TV services (be they cable, satellite, or DSL-based) may be tempted to revert to a more basic linear TV offering (such as Freeview) and just stream the rest.

It's worth pointing out that GWR's digital radio multiplex is also host to the "Livetime" project (now wholly-owned by BT Wholesale, though GWR will get a revenue share and get paid for the bandwidth). We think this service should be live in time for Christmas next year, streaming video to a variety of devices, including mobile phones equipped with DAB tuners (and of course radio receivers with video screens - TV on a radio, now there's disruption for you!). I wonder if Classic FM TV will be among the programming partners? One last observation is that, with Wi-Fi, DAB tuners, and maybe DVB-H tuners coming into the mix, the innards of a mobile phone in the UK market (at least) are going to be getting pretty crowded next year.

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