Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

BT aims for Freeview internet deal

By Kate Bulkley

The Guardian

Friday November 29, 2002



BT is looking to provide a host of internet services to the new generation of Freeview set top boxes that will be on the market from early next year.

The telecommunications giant is hoping to cash in on the success of BBC-backed digital service Freeview, which offers 30 free channels to viewers for a one-off fee of between 99 and 150.

The next generation of set-top boxes, due to appear on the shelves early next year, will allow users to access the internet and other interactive services. BT is hoping to secure a deal that would enable it to sell internet services to Freeview customers.

The company is keen to protect its telephone market share from further erosion from the cable operators who bundle a handful of basic TV channels with a phone line.

"BT sees that if people take Freeview then they may not subscribe to cable or maybe they will even leave cable," said Andy Blanche, the head of media ventures at BT, at a New Media Markets conference this week.

The company is hoping that if subscribers drop their cable TV service they may also walk away from their cable telephone service.

The new DTT boxes that will hit the market early next year will allow companies such as BT to gather phone line revenue from customers browsing the web, playing games or voting stars out of the next Big Brother house.

BT is also hoping viewers with the new Freeview boxes will upgrade to its BT Broadband high-speed internet service.

"BT is looking at broadband upgradable solutions," said Mr Blanche.

Freeview, which launched on October 30, is being heralded as an early retail success.Unconfirmed sales figures quote as many as 30,000 of the 99 set-top boxes are being sold each week.

The one-off purchase offers 30 free-to-air digital channels, including BBC channels, news, music and entertainment, for a single fee.


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