By James Wells

SYDNEY: Sony Australia has responded to a Federal Government discussion paper on digital television and multi-channeling released last week, by affirming its long-term commitment to digital television products.

To meet the demand for digital television products, which is expected to substantially increase in coming years as Australian consumers approach the switchover from analogue to digital television transmission, Sony Australia has announced it will be rolling out a comprehensive range of digital set top boxes, personal video recorders utilising hard
disc technology as well as a new range of televisions with integrated digital tuners.

The company is also expected to launch its high definition Blu-ray recording devices before the end of the year at its dealer expo – Sony. Experience More, which will also commemorate the company’s 60th birthday.

Recently appointed Sony Australia deputy managing director, Carl Rose, who has been following the implementation of a similar digital switchover process overseas in his former role as marketing director of Sony UK for the last three years, believes the consumer electronics industry will benefit if the Australian government takes a more active stance in helping manufacturers, and therefore retailers and consumers in driving the uptake of digital television.

Sony believes that the government should require manufacturers to integrate digital tuners in televisions sold in Australia. This would further drive consumer take-up of digital television and encourage broadcasters to provide a stronger high definition content offering in the knowledge that there is a growing customer base for this content.

“Facilitating consumer access to digital television is a priority for Sony Australia, as it is for Sony in a number of other countries around the world. This access will come about through a range of products including digital set-top-boxes, personal video recorder (PVR) products and televisions with integrated tuners.”

Rose believes the direction taken by the Australian government on digital television is in line with other global markets including the UK.

“In the UK, where digital television is high on the government’s agenda, the analogue to digital switchover is expected to have its full regional rollout completed by the end of 2012. All commercial broadcasters are expected to cease their analogue transmissions by 31 December, 2012. The process will begin in 2008. This timeframe is also broadly consistent with that proposed for other markets, including many European counties and Japan.

“From a consumer awareness perspective, the UK Government introduced the digital tick logo that certifies products and services designed to work through the digital switchover. This notion of common identification and standards needs to be higher on the agenda in Australia.

“Unlike in Australia, service and content providers in the UK including Sky and Freeview, have largely driven the uptake of digital television with over 17 million homes having adopted one of these services. There are only 7.5 million UK households without digital TV, with this number expected to drop further in 2006 as the World Cup drives additional interest in digital television," Rose said.

“While these percentages are not as high as in Australia, Sony does anticipate the combination of broadcasters, content and service providers, hardware manufacturers and the Government will drive local digital television growth."

The introduction of a high definition multi channel excites Rose who has confirmed that Sony Australia’s focus in the digital television space is firmly directed towards the profitable high definition segment.

“As high definition provides a demonstrably superior viewing experience for consumers when compared with standard definition, we strongly support all actions to encourage more high definition content. Sony is keen to see a continuation and a substantial increase of the HD content quota as it will further the policy of digital conversion. Our Bravia and Grand Wega television ranges are built to maximise the potential of these kinds of digital television technologies, and customers will appreciate their benefits. From Sony’s perspective, high definition is clearly the future of digital television."