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Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 12:47 GMT
ITV and Sky digital deal closer
TV set
ITV hopes to get on the Sky Digital package this year
ITV has come a step closer to becoming available to Sky TV's digital viewers after it struck a deal with the owners of the Astra satellites.

The agreement - between ITV and satellite owners Société Européenne des Satellites (SES) - means that the technology will be in place to broadcast ITV on digital satellite television by the end of the year.

ITV and BSkyB are about to start negotiations to broadcast ITV on Sky Digital.

This will mean that Sky Digital viewers will no longer have to endure the irritation of switching back to their terrestrial channels when they want to change from Sky to ITV.

The network will also be available on Sky's on-screen listings guide.

Sky Digital set-top box and satellite dish
Sky Digital currently has 4.7 million UK subscribers
ITV has said it should be ready to launch the service by the end of 2001 after setting up the technological infrastructure with Luxembourg-based SES.

An ITV spokesperson said talks between ITV and BSkyB will start soon.

"We haven't had the capacity to start until today but we've got a year to get it finalised. These things aren't going to happen overnight."

Sky's rival ONdigital, which has one million subscribers, has been carrying ITV and sister channel ITV2 for some time - something seen as a major selling point.

But if the deal between ITV and Sky goes through, Sky will have taken another step up in a market where it is already the leader, with almost five million subscribers.

Tough negotiations

ITV has found that many of Sky's viewers simply can't be bothered to switch between the digital and terrestrial services so they want to make it easier for viewers to see their programmes.

But they will face tough negotiations with Sky, who are reportedly asking £20m ($29m) per year to carry the ITV network.

Viewers will still be able to view local programmes as 16 regional services will be broadcast digitally.

They include the 14 ITV regions, together with separate services for HTV Wales and HTV West, and English and Scottish versions of Border Television's output.

  • The BBC has launched its BBC Text service on digital satellite television.

    It offers around 14 million users fast access to hundreds of pages of BBC news, sport, weather, entertainment and financial information, free of charge.

    The service - also available to digital cable and terrestrial viewers - is available to viewers of BBC Choice, BBC Knowledge and BBC News 24.

  • See also:

    27 Feb 01 | Entertainment
    ITV attracts 'wealthy audience'
    17 Jan 01 | Business
    Ondigital fights for growth
    03 Nov 00 | Business
    Broadcasters row over BSkyB claims
    24 Oct 00 | Business
    ITV shake-up continues
    14 Jul 00 | UK
    ITV: Will two become one?
    16 Jul 00 | Business
    RTL may enter ITV fray
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