Advanced Television

German cable hit by switch-off inertia

May 27, 2009

From Colin Mann in Cologne

Despite much of the cable network in Germany already being upgraded to digital, industry executives have criticised the lack of clear policy surrounding analogue switch-off. Thomas Braun, President of the ANGA Association of German Cable Operators told delegates at the ANGA Cable Strategy Summit that with the networks digitised and capable of carrying a wide range of services, it was now up to the viewer to be digitised, a view echoed by keynote speaker Matthias Kurth, President of the Federal Network Agency. "The problem is not with the infrastructure, it's ensuring people order the services" he said. "It's hard to convince people to invest in new equipment."

Werner Hanf, CEO of cable operator NetCologne, suggested that there was an obstacle to digitisation in persuading people to pay in digital for the same material they are still able to receive free in analogue. "We're in the digital Stone Age'" complained Marcus Schmid, CEO Tele Columbus and Chairman, PrimaCom. We need to make viewers pay and make them addressable by modern equipment."

Parm Sandu, CEO, Unity Media Group, said there was "a complete absence of industrial policy for the media industry … it's about time the government did something. What's needed is the political will to set clear standards." Markus Englert, Chairman, New Media and Diversification, ProSiebenSat.1 Group, referring to the lack of subscriber uptake of digital, said he believed in the "slowness of the masses. They need a kick in the butt."

"We can't hide behind the consumer," Sandhu countered. "It's terribly important for cable to present a united front. It's a crying shame that we're sat here trying to decide what to do, when the rest of the world is moving ahead. Hanf suggested that digitisation could only be driven forward "by giving incentives for customers to make them decide to switch on a voluntary basis. Braun concluded that the marketing of digital programmes and services and pushing for a fixed analogue switch-off date was not contradictory. "If this is defined, it will help marketing efforts."


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