Coonan's plan for a plan barely raises a ripple

Coonan's plan for a plan barely raises a ripple

The Federal Government's plan to develop a Digital Action Plan for the TV industry announced last week by Minister for IT and Telecommunications, Helen Coonan, has failed to inspire the IT and CE retail channel.

According to manager of Melbourne-based distributor and retailer, AV Gallery, David Eleftheriadis, there remains little public interest in digital broadcasting, as the principal driver for digital set-top box sales continues to be picture quality.

"We are seeing a bit of interest in Foxtel Digital but no one is buying a set-top box so that they can receive the free to air channels," he said. "In fact a lot of the customers are surprised when they find the extra channels and, if anything, think they are annoying."

Senior account director for retail research company, GfK, Derek Nash, said while digital-set-top box sales continue to grow, they continue to be closely correlated with the purchase of plasma and LCD screens.

"When people buy a plasma screen we usually ask what else they buy along with it, and a digital set-top box is often purchased as well," he said. "Less so with the LCD screens, but it is big screens that continue to drive set-top box sales."

Despite ongoing television campaigns promoting digital content managing director of Pacific Hi-Fi, Frank di Bartolo, said the public was showing far more interest in personal video recorders than digital set-top boxes per se.

"We are seeing an enormous uptake of digital set-top boxes with personal video recorders, so that people can watch their programs when they like to," he said. "But it's the flexibility they are looking for, not the extra programming."

According to industry group Digital Broadcasting Australia, 1.5 million digital set-top boxes had been shipped to Australian retailers by March, although according to GfK figures for May only 1.3 million of these had been sold.

"Sales are likely to continue to increase, and there will be a number of drivers," offered DBA CEO, Chris Williamson. "We are predicting more than 2 million by the end of 2006."

While the broader retail channel agrees with Williamson's assessment, government information campaigns are expected to play little, if any, role in driving the market forward.

"The public needs to know what content is available through the digital channels, but that's up to the channels to promote it themselves, and create interest in that content," di Bartolo said.

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