UK Telco to Launch TV Service After Ten Year Delay

29 November 2006

LONDON: After government-imposed delays of more than ten years, British telco giant BT will next Monday launch BT Vision, its long-awaited internet TV service, using the international standard IPTV protocol.

Customers will be offered a range of on-demand film, TV and music programming, together with an interactive and communications service plus DVR technology, all available via standard TV sets.

The service, which was announced late last year [WAMN: 09-Dec-06] differs from competitors' offerings in that it combines access to digital-terrestrial channels through a standard roof antenna with broadband-powered VOD.

And, unlike other pay-TV services, there is no mandatory monthly subscription - although only broadband customers are eligible.

The project has been a long time in the pipeline - well over a decade, thanks to the meddling of UK politicians back in the early 90s .

BT was barred from making the move by John Major's Tory [Conservative Party] administration, which imposed a ten-year ban on the TV-by-phoneline project following its successful eighteen-month pilot scheme.

The ban, which many observers believe was imposed to mollify British-based US satellite TV and cable interests, was ostensibly introduced to prevent BT (at that time a virtual monopoly) from stifling competition.

BT plans a two-phase approach for the new service.

After Monday's launch, it plans to contact the "tens of thousands" of existing customers who have expressed interest in BT Vision. But all mainstream advertising activity will be held back until spring 2007.

The telco is anxious not to trigger volumes of customer demand it cannot fulfil - conscious of the PR disaster that overwhelmed telco/retailer Carphone Warehouse after it launched a "free broadband" service earlier this year [WARC News: 13-Apr-06].

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff