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Thursday, 7 October, 1999, 19:32 GMT
Pre-pay latest weapon in digital war

Set top boxes will come free with a year's pre-paid subscription

ONdigital is to offer pre-paid digital tv in its latest bid to boost subscription, after announcing a big rise in users.

The terrestrial broadcaster said its total subscribers was now up to 411,000 - a 66% increase in the last three months.

Now the company is to follow the example of some mobile phone companies in selling its service on a pre-paid basis.

Mobile telephone networks have seen a substantial rise in subscribers since telephones went on sale in supermarkets and pre-paid, pay-as-you-go telephones were made available.

ONdigital, which is battling with BSky for the biggest slice of the digital market, is to sell its "plug and play" boxes for a year's subscription of 120 in 1,400 stores, including more than 200 Sainsbury's shops, as well as Comet and Argos sites.

Rival sceptical

It hopes the move will win customers in the run-up to Christmas.

Stuart Prebble, chief executive said: "Pre-paid could create a whole new market for set top boxes, just as it did for mobile phones.

"This Christmas you will be able to walk into a high street store and, for less than 120, pick up your box, take it home, plug it in, start watching and pay nothing more for a year."

But digital rival BSkyB, which already sells its boxes in Sainsbury's, Asda and Toys R Us, charging from around 6 a month, said paying a year in advance was not a "particularly good proposition".

A spokesman for the group said: "We think asking people to pay up front for a year is too much."

ONdigital, which is run by ITV companies Granada and Carlton, said its subscriptions had been given a boost by its acquisition of exclusive television rights in the UK for some Champions League football matches.

TV set deal

Mr Prebble added: "From a standing start to almost half a million subscribers in less than a year is a remarkable feat."

The total is still below BSkyB's 1.2 million digital subscribers in August.

BSkyB will announce new figures next Friday, which are estimated to be around 1.5 million.

ONdigital also announced two new digital television brands - Dixons Matsui and Philips idTVs - to add to its line up of Pace, Philips, Nokia, Toshiba and Sony.

It follows an announcement last month from Amstrad that it would sell its televisions in a deal with BSkyB thorough Asda stores
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See also:
17 Sep 99 |  UK
Digital TV: Exactly what do you get?
12 May 99 |  The Company File
Digital television wars
10 Feb 99 |  The Company File
BSkyB winning digital race

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