Teletext faces the TV future with new-look digital service

By Dominic Ponsford

The first ITV digital Teletext service launches later this month in
a bid to stave off extinction when analogue TV switches off in 2012.

The switch to digital is the first major technological advance in 30
years of TV text and has a dramatically different look to the old
analogue format, with text boxes and drop-down menus arranged around a
reduced-size TV picture.

The new service is quicker to navigate and enables viewers to scroll back and forth between pages at their own speed.

Editorially,
regional and national news will continue to be provided by the Press
Association. Teletext intends to expand its own in-house production of
entertainment, sport, motoring and finance news.

Under Teletext’s
ten-year deal with ITV, signed last year, it has agreed to
cross-promote ITV content – which means dedicated pages on particular
programmes and special access to the channel’s stars.

Editor-in-chief
John Sage said: “We have an in-house entertainment desk producing
exclusive stories and we are looking for them to produce more and
bigger exclusives as we go into digital.

“We want to gain a reputation over our rivals, BBC and Sky, for having content that is not bland or just taken off the wire.”

Teletext
has a newsroom of 100 journalists producing that unique content which
has helped it keep a weekly reach of 16 million despite competition
from the internet.

Multi-channel TV could be an even bigger hurdle, but Sage remains confident the service has a future.

“Looking at information on the internet and looking at information on the TV is a very different experience.

There
is the convenience factor of pressing the text button rather than
trotting upstairs, booting up the PC and choosing from one of hundreds
of information websites,” he said.”We also craft our content to keep it
concise. There is an average use time of ten minutes and in that ten
minutes you can get access to news, sport, weather and travel – on the
internet it’s much more difficult to do that.”

Teletext

FACTBOX

Teletext is owned by Daily Mail and General Trust and took over from Oracle in 1992 to provide commercial TV text services.

Audience high: 24 million in late Nineties.

Weekly viewing figures: 16 million.

Breakdown:
TV listings 9.1m, weather 9.0m, sport 8.8m, football 7.9m, national
news 7.3m, regional news 6.3m, lottery results 6m, holidays 5m, travel
4m.

Editorial staff: sport 39, features, listings and competitions 34, news/duty editors, finance, development team, support 27.

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