LONDON: Dominant telecoms company BT Group PLC, yesterday announced it would start a television service by next autumn in a deal with Philips who would make the required set top boxes.
The new service will offer free-to-air television channels picked up via a traditional aerial, which means there will be no TV subscription charges unlike in cable or Sky TV services. It will also provide content on-demand, such as movies as well as a “catch-up” TV service that would provide content from an archive of recent programmes.
These services will be charged for. The installation will include a digital personal video recorder (PVR), with an 80-hour storage capacity. This PVR will be made by Dutch company Philips.
BT’s offering will basically be a broadband connection integrated with a freeview decoder that will pick up digital terrestrial television signal. It will be aimed at the huge market – 12 to 13 million households that are reluctant to take up pay-television.
BT is expected to charge no more than £25 a month – the typical fees for a low-end television package. BT may find it difficult to convince people that what they are selling is actually a form of pay TV.
The “converged TV service” will initially be available only to BT’s 2 million broadband customers.
BT’s planned entry into the television market is seen as a reaction to BskyB’s announcement that it would make a foray into the telecoms market some time next year. Sky had earlier announced its intention to offer a bundled TV-Internet service aiming to get the broadband customers of BT and others.
Until recently, both Sky TV and BT have been working as allies reselling each other’s products to create an offering that will match that of NTL and Telewest. BT terminated this partnership after Sky’s announcement to enter the telecoms market.
Sky TV is yet to announce a launch date for its video-on-demand service.
BT also said that it would not bid again for rights to televise Premier League football matches for which competitor Sky is also a bidder.