Taking free-to-air tv online in Australia: opportunities and challenges

Digital television Free to air Streaming services Digital broadcasting Television Australia

This report addresses some of the issues associated with migrating free-to-air television to online delivery.

The report is designed to enumerate the key technical, commercial and equity issues that would arise in the course of such a migration, providing insights and identifying problems that would need to be addressed. Amongst other things, this requires an examination of Australia’s digital infrastructure and its capacity to support television distribution, the media and telecommunications business models that would need to be adapted, and the response of households to the changes in consumer technology that would be required. A household survey was also undertaken to inform this report, and details are included in the Appendix. The report is not a proposal that free-to-air television should entirely move to online delivery, nor is it a strategy to get there. Nor is it a cost-benefit analysis.

In summary, this report concludes that it is difficult to foresee a complete migration of free-to-air television to online delivery on current industry technological and commercial settings. These settings would need to shift significantly for this assessment to change, and could require significant policy intervention to accomplish. But there is significant scope for a partial migration to be commercially driven over the coming years. The challenges to a complete migration identified in this report might be taken as a checklist of areas where the online solution might pragmatically need to be supplemented with other technical or policy approaches. Moving all existing free-to-air viewers into the online environment would meet some significant hurdles, and could only be accelerated with a planned, complex and potentially expensive intervention, in contrast to the organic rise of the 'born digital' SVOD services which already reside there.


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