German payboxes reach for digital

BERLIN — German digital pay TV platform DF1 and pay TV web Premiere are hatching plans to distribute more digital decoders to Teutonic TV households.

DF1 will offer new subscribers its complete range of specialized channels along with the D-Box decoder for an introductory price of 49.90 marks ($29) a month. After three months, customers can rent the decoder for $12 a month plus an additional fee for channel packages.

Launched last summer, DF1 still has fewer than 40,000 subscribers. While its failure to gain access to most German cable systems remains a major stumbling block, the $524 decoder price also scared away potential subscribers.

DF1 managing director Gottfried Zmeck said that, by giving customers the option to lease, “we are removing the need to invest in a decoder, and are offering a very attractive opportunity to enter the world of digital television.”

Starting June 21, DF1 will raise the number of specialized channels available on its platform from 25 to 30 and will expand its pay-per-view offerings.

Meanwhile, Premiere has announced plans to lease an additional 30,000 digital decoders to its subscribers in the fall. Premiere, which has nearly 1.5 million analog customers, began digital pilot projects involving 20,000 households in February.

While DF1 uses the Nokia-produced D-Box decoder, Premiere has chosen to distribute the Mediabox decoder from Philips.

Premiere reports that more than 100,000 analog subscribers — including those with cable — have expressed interest in receiving the channel in digital form. But, like DF1, PremiereDigital can currently be received only in households equipped with a satellite dish.

Both Premiere and DF1 are negotiating with cable gatekeeper Deutsche Telekom over conditions for access to German cable systems.

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