Platform Communications Views

These are murky financial waters, so why are more and more diving into Pay-TV?

Ian Westover

It’s hardly possible for a day to go by without hearing or reading of something related to the financial recession.  The economic shark is hungry and has been circling its prey for a long time, ready to bite.

But it seems there’s one industry in particular that is prepared to act as the Roy Sneider to the financial world’s ‘Jaws’. Refusing to be swallowed up and pulled under is Pay-TV. BSkyB in the UK recently announced that it has added an additional 124,000 subscribers, taking its numbers to approximately 9.4million. Rather impressive, given that consumers are being encouraged to save as much as they can. So what would prompt so many people to think “well in that case, I’m going to spend money on watching television”?

Television has always been somewhat ‘escapist’. However, it seems this sense of escape has recently moved on from emerging oneself within the programme content, to actually taking refuge in the living room from the financial perils of the outside world. Restaurants are suffering as people are largely deciding not to go out for a meal, but stay in and cook instead, maybe order a pizza using their 2 for 1 voucher. So while they stay in, where do they turn for entertainment? The television, of course! It has been, and (if you ask the right people) always will be, the main source of entertainment within the home.

But where’s the logic in paying extra? Well I’ll be honest, I’ve taken the plunge myself, but in my case I’ve jumped into the crystal clear waters of the high definition sea. I’m a big football fan, and watch as many games as I can (or can bear to). Before I had Sky, I would go down the pub and spend roughly £20 on a couple of rounds for me and my housemate and a few not-very-successful turns on the quiz machine. Add that together during a month and you’re probably looking at £80-100. Sky HD with the sports package costs roughly £45 per month, between the two of us. Throw into the mix that I get to watch The Ashes, 24 and The Wire in high definition, and there’s no contest.

So it looks like Pay-TV is the one source of regular entertainment that consumers can rely upon, feel safe with and, at only about £1 per day depending on your subscription, is actually cost-effective in these hard financial times. The question is where do we go from here? Well, for a start, those existing companies within the industry chain can hopefully look forward to a bright future. Increased subscriber numbers means more set-top boxes, more smartcards, more devices. ‘Emerging’ markets such as widgets and deeper interactivity, even greater uptake of high definition, will see opportunities to take advantage of consumers’ need to be entertained at home. What’s clear is that in these hard financial times, there is still the consumer demand, and while the demand is still there, the future is bright for the industry.

While we are starting to see and hear of green shoots emerging, no-one quite knows how long the global financial status will remain this way. But for the Pay-TV industry there is at least some light. While I don’t mean to generalise, it does appear that technology companies can benefit from this economic situation as consumers seem willing to increase what they watch on TV, how they watch it, and what they pay for it. Now looks as good a time as any to launch or develop services that provide an even greater viewing experience.

BSkyB has even announced plans to launch the UK’s first 3D TV service. Imagine Jaws in 3D. Now that really is a scary proposition.