Britain's ITV Network has slammed claims made by BSkyB, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled satellite TV broadcaster, that its audience ratings have bettered ITV for the first time in a mainstream market .

The claim, described by ITV as based on “very selective” data, was made by Sky Digital in a briefing last week to investors and analysts. This asserted that Sky transmissions captured 19% audience share among subscribers able to receive its digital satellite services – whereas ITV, whose national audience share exceeds 25% of all UK viewers, was viewed in only 17% of Sky Digital households.

“When viewers are offered all the services that Sky Digital can offer, they choose Sky Digital,” claimed a Sky spoke. ITV's advertisers can't be very happy."

Not so, counters ITV, insisting that it won a 25% audience share in Sky digital homes between May and September, a figure "on a par with BBC1 and way ahead of the other terrestrial channels. With figures like that, it's not surprising that Sky want us on their [digital] platform," an ITV spokeswoman said.

ITV has consistently refused to allow its programmes to be carried by Sky Digital whose subscribers must switch back to analogue TV if they want to view ITV output.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)