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Tuesday, July 28, 1998 Published at 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK


Digital turn on for ONdigital

ONdigital unveilled

The UK's first digital terrestrial pay TV service will be known as ONdigital, it has been announced.

BBC Media Correspondent Torin Douglas: "It will be a hard sell in more ways than one"
The change of name from British Digital Broadcasting is the first step in a £40m marketing drive to establish a brand in the emerging ditigal market and convince viewers to subscribe to the service.

ONdigital plans to launch its 15-channel network in November to complement free-to-air digital channels from existing broadcasters.

[ image: Digital TV heralds the start of a major battle for viewers]
Digital TV heralds the start of a major battle for viewers
ONdigital will be competing with BSkyB's digital satellite services and says it believes it can double the current pay TV market to around 12 million subscribers - about half the population.

Digital line-up

Among its channels will be four each from ONdigital owners Granada and Carlton, four from Flextech in conjunction with the BBC and - for an extra premium - Sky Sports 1 and movie channels Sky Screen One and Sky Screen Two.

Although pricing and the full channel line-up will not be announced until September, Chief executive Stephen Grabiner said the service would be "the best way to get the best television".

Simon Cole of Unique Broadcasting: "We don't really have anything to be excited about"
But some in the industry are sceptical saying content - rather than picture or audio quality - will be the issue that drives consumer choice.

Channels available without subscription will be BBC1, BBC2, BBC News 24, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

British Digital Broadcasting has also been negotiating with Viacom to make MTV part of the package in 1999.

[ image: Viewers need a set top box]
Viewers need a set top box
Viewers will need a set-top box for their existing televisions to decode the digital signals but will not need a satellite or cable connection.

Those who want to receive ONdigital's package of channels will also have to pay a subscription.

There have been behind-the-scenes rows between BDB and BSkyB, which plans its own 150 channel digital launch later this year, much of it dedicated to pay-per-view movies.

Originally part of the BDB bid, BSkyB's investment in digital terrestrial TV was vetoed by the Independent Television Commission, although the ITC said its sports and movie programming would be an important incentive for viewers to switch to digital.

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