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BBC, ITV to duet online

B'casters click in online venture

LONDON — Britain’s two biggest broadcasters, the BBC and ITV, are collaborating on to air their main webs on the Internet on a trial basis.

The six-month technical pilot involving 200,000 people in the U.K. features BBC1, 2, 3 and 4 plus rolling news net News 24. ITV is repped by ITV1, 2, 3 and 4 plus a local news and information services recently launched in parts of southern England.

The experiment is the first big test of so-called “multicasting” — broadcasting via the Internet using broadband — which many industry experts predict is how most auds will watch TV in the future.

However, that remains “a long, long way away,” according to the BBC’s head of strategic innovation, Tim Loosemore.

“That’s the overriding objective: to see whether multicasting is a route where the Internet can support live telly, because for a lot of people the Internet is a really major media environment now,” he said.

Both the BBC and ITV have experimented with broadband services, the BBC via its media player project whose seven-day catch-up trial has just ended, and ITV via ITV local, a news and information service currently restricted to audiences in the coastal towns of Brighton and Hastings.

Simon Fell, ITV’s controller of emerging technologies, said, “It’s clear that the general public is becoming more comfortable with accessing content online.

“We are constantly evaluating new ways to deliver ITV’s …programming to our viewers, to maximize our revenues as a commercial broadcaster.