Teletext has been in a bit of a limbo land on digital.
On analogue it was clear. Just press the text button on ITV, Channel 4 and recently, Channel 5, and there it was.
In the digital world, it didn’t seem to know what to do. On Digital Terrestrial it was compelled to provide a service, but no longer was it accessible from a "host" channel – instead the viewer had to go to channel 9 and wait for the standalone service.
Its service on satellite was little more than a holiday retailer – a data service showing the latest deals, tucked away in the "Interactive" menu.
Neither particularly seemed to be invested in or loved. Content was fed in, and spat out, but little more. In a way you couldn’t help but wonder if they were simply going through the motions until they could close down their TV operations and replace it with a website.
Some recent developments however do suggest that perhaps Teletext are taking TV seriously.
Teletext On 4.
The first development will be the launch shortly of Teletext On 4 on digital satellite and digital terrestrial (DTT) with cable customers getting a service later.
This follows on from Teletext taking over the contract to produce Channel 4’s ancillary text service on analogue, providing channel specific content like programme information.
Channel 4 has in the past attempted to provide such a service with FourText launching in the ITV Digital era. However it was rarely updated, and many content areas slowly disappeared until it provided little more than a schedule. The new service will be cross-platform, making it more cost effective.
Interestingly, Teletext on 4 will offer page numbers as a method of navigation – but that’s another story.
A scan on my DTT set top box this evening showed two new data channels – Teletext TV Guide (on channel 54) and Teletext Holidays on channel 55.
The holiday channel is even on a different multiplex, taking space on SDN‘s multiplex A. This has the advantage that offering more bandwidth, thus allowing the potential for an expanded holiday service in the future, and releasing bandwidth on the original service to make it faster and to allow extra content to be added.
The standalone TV guide is nothing particularly interesting – yet, being as it is, the same as the existing service on channel 9, but with a slightly different design. Quite what Teletext are planning with the service, we simply don’t know.
The odd one in the pack are plans to start a home shopping TV channel – selling, naturally, holidays.
It’s a rather odd one – whilst Teletext knows about holidays, it doesn’t know about running a TV station. No doubt the existing digital satellite service will tie in for some nice "red key action"
So will Teletext survive? Well it does seem that it’s long term stratergy is simply… more of the same. Better than nothing, and at least they seem to be doing something now.
Latching on to Channel 4 though does provide it a chance to stake a future and shows how important a host channel really is – for starters on air promotion of Channel 4’s own content will provide the perfect opertunity to for people to move over to its news and holiday services.
Is Channel 4 enough? Debatable. It will certainly be interesting to see if they can sign up more TV channels in the same way. If they can, Teletext may still be on the TV in 10 years time. If not, it might just be yet another website in the information super highway.