Friday, November 13, 1998 Published at 10:46 GMT
Business: The Company File
Switching on to a TV revolution
ONdigital will have to be on the ball to take on Sky
The UK digital television war gets underway in earnest later on Sunday.
And it promises to change our viewing habits for ever.
Customers paying around £200 for a set top box which decodes the new television signals will be able to subscribe to a plethora of channels and receive higher quality pictures, all through a normal television aerial.
But ONdigital's birth has been dogged by problems.
It has admitted that it is likely to run out of the set top boxes in the pre-Christmas sales rush.
Sky Digital has also been overwhelmed by demand for set top boxes.
The lack of set top boxes suggest that both companies either badly miscalculated how popular digital television would be or suffered severe supply problems.
Despite teething troubles, the onset of the digital television could prove to be beneficial to customers.
A price war could emerge as rivals rush to sign up subscribers.
ONdigital customers will be able to get a basic package of channels for as little at £7.99 a month.
And Sky Digital, owned by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB is offering a service for a similar price, although it has many more channels
Only the beginning
There it little doubt that the dawn of digital will change the way we watch television.
Customers can now pick and choose from a vast array of programmes using an electronic programme guide.
That is just the beginning.
Interactive services and the Internet will be introduced onto television screens as rivals attempt to tune in to more customers.
The television battle will be watched closely across the world.
The UK is leading the digital revolution and stands to become the first country in Europe to introduce satellite, digital terrestrial and cable services.
Cable TV subscribers should get access to digital next year.
As a result the success or failure of the UK digital experiment will be scrutinised closely by television executives around the world.
City experts believe digital television will take-off over the next few years.
Henderson Crosthwaite analyst Mathew Horsman expects ONdigital to have 2.7m subscribers by 2005, compared to 3.8m for Sky Digital and 4.7m for digital cable.
But in the early days of digital some customers are likely to remain frustrated.
Suppliers getting their wires crossed could interfere with sales.
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