A first skirmish in the digital media war

A major kerfuffle has broken out in the UK between Virgin Media and satellite broadcaster BSkyB, with customers of both services losing out as the ham in the metaphorical sandwich.

At midnight last night, a deadline expired for both companies to come to an agreement on licensing rights and fees for Virgin to include some of Sky’s content in the range of TV channels included in Virgin’s cable service.

No agreement was reached, so Sky pulled the plug on all its content via Virgin. This means that three million cable TV customers no longer have access to Sky’s basic channels, including Sky One – which shows high-value series such as 24, Lost and Nip/Tuck – and Sky News.

Virgin Media is Richard Branson‘s new conglomerate that brings together NTL, Telewest, Virgin Mobile and Virgin.net; Sky is part of Rupert Murdoch‘s media empire. A clash of the brash and bold and the old-media-becomes-new-media.

Both sides are squabbling in public, each blaming the other.

Digital TV

But look beyond the present spat and suffering customers to see what this is really about – establishing a leader position in the evolving media landscape where the internet, not cable nor satellite broadcasting, is the new battleground as this country (and worldwide) begins the switchover to wholly digital next year concluding in 2012.

That means millions of people will upgrade their hardware sooner or later. Much of the cool kit on the market right now is already designed to connect to a digital network (the internet) as well as traditional means of receiving television signals. PCs and gaming platforms continue to evolve with capabilities to do much more than the obvious.

New equipment, new means of creating, sharing and getting content out there, greater choices in content. It’s a great time to be a consumer. And a great time to be a content creator, whether you’re a monolithic broadcaster or an individual podcaster.

Think about that.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.