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Let’s all do launch

On Digital preps for November bow

LONDON — On Digital, the U.K.’s digital terrestrial TV platform, has confirmed that it will launch Nov. 15, with £90 million ($150 million) earmarked for marketing and consumer support in its first year.

The November debut will come only six weeks after the Oct. 1 bow of Sky Digital, the rival digital satellite platform to be launched by British Sky Broadcasting.

Many analysts had predicted that On Digital would fail to get on air before 1999, giving Sky an invaluable head start in the run up to Christmas, when consumer spending reaches its peak.

Dishless

On Digital’s decoders will retail for $335, which will give subscribers access to around 30 channels without the need for a satellite dish or cable connection.

The cheapest package will cost $13.40 a month, allowing viewers to receive any six channels from the basic tier, along with eight free services from the existing terrestrial webs and a bonus home shopping channel.

On Digital’s basic channels include First On Digital, a showcase service for special events, plus Sky One, Cartoon Network, Eurosport, and three pay services from the BBC/Flextech joint venture. There will also be a selection of themed channels from On Digital’s two shareholders, the ITV companies Carlton and Granada.

Free and extra

The eight free services include the five existing terrestrial webs — BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 — plus a second ITV channel, the BBC’s 24-hour news channel and BBC Choice, giving another chance to see recent BBC shows.

For an extra payment of up to $49, subscribers will also be able to select from five premium channels, including two sports services and two movie services from BskyB, as well as Channel 4’s new movie channel Film Four and Manchester United TV.

By contrast, for the same decoder price Sky Digital is offering around 200 channels, although that also requires a satellite dish. Sky’s basic entry price is slightly cheaper at $12.

On Digital is offering only three channels not also available on Sky Digital — Carlton and Granada are refusing to let ITV and ITV2 sign up for the Sky platform, while First On Digital is also exclusive to digital terrestrial.

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