You would think that with a 200 channel system making its debut
from next Thursday there would be room enough for everybody. But
Darwinian forces are still at work in the world of multichannel TV.
Channel One is all but gone and Performance, the arts channel, is
hanging on by its fingertips. The decision by Cable & Wireless
Communications to tip the channel off the roster was bad enough. Worse
is on the way for Associated’s TV hopes.
CWC is in talks with the BBC and Flextech and will have signed up UK
Arena before the week is out. They weren’t total philistines after all,
they were just in search of higher production values, and other cable
companies could easily come to the same conclusion.
Given the level of investment and the end of rigid bundling, further
casualties are likely in the digital age as platform owners or
organisers look for channels that will at least punch their weight in a
Far more than in the past, at the edges of the electronic programme
guide channels will come and channels will go. At least now many more
will have the chance to prove whether they can attract an audience or
A case in point is Tara Television, the channel featuring RTE
Although the Irish national broadcaster is not the BBC it still has an
annual programme budget of pounds 131m and can turn out a distinctive
mixed schedule. Tara has been carried by such obvious carriers as
Birmingham Cable, but there has been a swift decline to such
metro-politan centres as Jersey Cable and Tawd Valley Cable. And of
course there was no chance of reaching a scattered national
Being Irish, Tara naturally talks a fine case. Not only are there six to
eight million Irish living in the UK - the lack of precision might have
something to do with the taxman - but one in four Britons have Irish
relations. One in six Britons have visited Ireland and, stretching for
it a bit in marketing terms, three in five Britons have Irish
acquaintances and colleagues.
There will be the chance to see Gay Byrne’s Late Late Show live. This is
the man who ended Peter Brooke’s career as Northern Ireland secretary by
persuading him to sing My Darling Clementine at the most inappropriate
time. Then there will be opportunities to catch up with Jack Charlton
soccer games and two vintage Irish soaps, Glenroe and Fair City.
I can think of a few manufacturers of alcoholic beverages who might be
interested in a marketing opportunity as long as Tara manages to get an
Even though most of the money will come from subscription, life is still
going to be tough for the minority channels - even channels which, at
least in theory, see their target audience as 10% of the population,
never mind their friends and acquaintances.
Amid the coming pounds 145m worth of digital marketing hype, it is worth
repeating to yourself a few iron truisms of TV: to have any chance of
creating a business you must be available, but being available doesn’t
guarantee an audience.
Raymond Snoddy is media editor of The Times.