UK viewers shun niche television

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The Independent Online

The British public is not ready for digital television channels based on niche subjects such as personal finance and cooking according to Adam Faith, the 1960s pop star.

Mr Faith, whose own personal finance channel, The Money Channel, collapsed in May, was speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival over the weekend. He blamed the slowdown in advertising, the freeze in venture-capital funding and poor audiences for the recent round of closures in digital broadcasting.

He said: "Although there are now over 6 million digital television subscribers, it's very hard to attract them to your channel. The public doesn't have the appetite for television it once had."

Mr Faith's channel is one of many that have shut recently or are under strategic review.

Earlier this month, Carlton Communications and J Sainsbury abandoned their joint venture. Meanwhile, Carlton's Food Network's future is uncertain, and Wellbeing, a channel jointly owned by Boots and Granada has axed nearly 100 staff.

The Money Channel, Mr Faith said, lacked a distinct identity and faced a host of better-funded rivals. "We ended up being a poor man's CNBC," he said. "Even a niche service still needs to be unique and attractive to viewers."

Many digital channels, Mr Faith said, attract just a handful of viewers and obtain embarrassing "zero" ratings in official viewership surveys.

TV-based shopping and commerce could eventually improve the fortunes of niche digital channels, adding to revenue generated from advertising, Mr Faith said.

But for that to happen, he said television would require better interactive technology so that consumers would be more comfortable with shopping through their TV sets.