The European Commission has engaged the consultancy IDATE to carry out the final evaluation of the European Union's Action Plan to promote widescreen television services. The Action Plan, which spent about 200 million euro, ran from 1993-1997, with the last projects completed in December 1998. Its mission was to catalyse television's transition to the 16:9 cinema-style screen format by supporting the production and broadcasting of widescreen programmes. IDATE will examine how well the Action achieved its objectives and to what extent it was efficiently managed. The results of the study, due this autumn, will be carefully considered and will be taken into account if the European Commission designs any future programmes in this field. All TV market players in the European Union are strongly invited to contribute to the evaluation via the dedicated website at http://www.idate.fr/16-9evaluation
In the early 1990s, surveys showed that consumers were very attracted to the 16:9 television format for aesthetic reasons. However, manufacturers were reluctant to mass-market widescreen sets until 16:9 transmissions became available, while producers and broadcasters would not invest in 16:9 programmes without an installed base of viewers with appropriate sets.
The Action Plan's aim was to overcome this chicken-and-egg problem by helping producers to make programmes in the new format and by supporting broadcasters in transmitting them. The goal was to achieve a critical mass of advanced television services and kick-start the market.
By the end of its implementation in December 1998, the Action Plan had contributed to over 60 000 hours of widescreen transmissions and 23 000 hours of new or remastered programmes. Major manufacturers now have full ranges of widescreen sets, sales are accelerating, and there has been a significant migration in television programme production towards widescreen.
The study will seek answers to the following key questions:
The results of the study, due this autumn, will be carefully considered and will be taken into account if any future programmes are designed in this field.
IDATE's terms of reference include interviewing a range of broadcasters, producers, consumer electronics manufacturers, facilities houses, retailers, national representatives and other players. The study also involves a postal and Web-based survey of all beneficiaries of the Action Plan.
TV market players are also invited to participate in the evaluation more directly by accessing http://www.idate.fr/16-9evaluation/ to express their views on the 16:9 format, contribute anything useful on the state of the European 16:9 market, or complete an online questionnaire.
Contacts for queries about the evaluation