NTL inks for digital VOD movie service

Launch skedded for mid-2000

LONDON — NTL has completed a $5 million deal with technology supplier Diva U.K. to set up a video-on-demand movie service for the cable operator’s digital TV platform.

Skedded for launch mid-2000, the service will occupy about 25% of NTL’s 200-channel digital platform. NTL begins rolling out its digital services at the end of this month, slightly delayed because of the company’s recent $13 billion takeover of Cable & Wireless Communications’ consumer business.

NTL maintains its VOD will be superior to that offered through ADSL telephone lines — such as those in the pipeline using lines supplied by British Telecom — because of the higher capacity of NTL’s fiber-optic network. BT’s network is largely copper.

Diva U.K.’s parent, California-based Diva Systems, has already deployed similar video-on-demand services on six cable systems in the U.S. NTL will use two VOD suppliers and will soon announce its other partner.

NTL offers pay-per-view movies on its analog platform through Front Row, its 50/50 joint venture with U.K. cabler Telewest. Front Row will also handle content for the VOD service.