U.K. getting digital boost

LONDON — ONdigital is partnering with SDN, the digital terrestrial TV consortium, to create a digital terrestrial pay-per-view service.

The as-yet-unnamed movie and sports bouquet represents a big boost for the viability of digital terrestrial TV in the U.K., adding value at a time when SkyDigital, satcaster BSkyB’s platform, is outdistancing ONdigital, the digital terrestrial pay platform, in take-up.

The PPV service will bow in the fall and unites the big three ITV companies in a new joint venture. ONdigital is backed by Carlton and Granada, while United News & Media holds one third of SDN in partnership with cabler NTL and Welsh TV channel S4C.

The service will be standalone, meaning customers with digital TV sets will not necessarily need to subscribe to ONdigital to make a PPV purchase. The venture will use up to five channels of SDN’s current six-channel capacity. The terrestrial Channel 5 is also carried on SDN.

In talks with studios

Roger Laughton, chairman of SDN, said negotiations are now under way with Hollywood studios for product. Key sports programming will include extra UEFA Champions League soccer matches. ITV recently negotiated a four-year deal to broadcast the Pan-European league (Daily Variety, Feb. 18).

SDN, one of the three digital terrestrial TV licenses that are separate from ONdigital, was originally envisaged as free-to-air but will now be a mixture of free and pay.

Laughton said that more SDN channels will be revealed within the next two weeks. The five PPV feeds will not all broadcast 24 hours, leaving space for additional services.

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