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Satcast pack attack

BSkyB first to consumers with digital deals

LONDON — Satcaster BSkyB has fired the latest salvo in its bid to dominate the startup phase of digital television in the U.K., this time announcing the pricing and details of its channel packages long before the competition can show its cards.

There are six packages in total, ranging from the five-channel Sky Value Pack at £6.99 ($11.46) per month to the Family Pack for $19.66.

Subscribers taking everything — the Family Pack plus premium services, representing the full Sky Digital platform of 200 or so channels — will pay no more than viewers do for BSkyB’s current analog package of nearly 40 channels ($49.18).

The Value Pack offers five channels, including the popular Sky One, plus free-to-air services such as the British terrestrials — except ITV, which is not on board because ITV companies Granada Group and Carlton Communications co-own ONdigital, the digital terrestrial rival to Sky Digital.

There are four additional packages priced at $14.74 — Popular Mix, which includes Discovery and Nickelodeon; Knowledge, home to fare such as Animal Planet and National Geographic; Kids & Music, where subscribers will find MTV; and perhaps the weakest lineup, Lifestyle, which includes three channels from Granada.

The channels available in the Value Pack also come with the more expensive packages. All of the channels, minus the premium services, are included in the Family Package. A single premium service — such as Disney and the Channel 4 movie channel, Film Four — is selling for $8.18 but is also discounted in various ways. All of the packages will be available from the beginning, on Oct. 1.

Talent poaching

Meanwhile, BSkyB has also announced that it has signed sports commentator Jimmy Hill — an institution on British terrestrial TV — to present the new show “The Last Word” on Sky Sports.

Hill becomes the second major talent poached by BSkyB from the BBC, which previously lost the veteran film critic Barry Norman to the satcaster. Although Hill’s “long-term” contract is nonexclusive, he has, for the moment, declined any more work for the BBC.

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