NTL enters free TV fray

Conglom unveils new 'quad-play' offer

Cable giant NTL has fired the latest shot in the battle to dominate Blighty’s converged digital landscape, by offering free digital TV to any home that signs up for its phone services.

NTL also has unveiled the “quad-play” offer — combining TV, telephone, broadband and cell-phone services — which it promised when it acquired Virgin Mobile earlier this year.

Moves follow the recent launch of free broadband deals from Rupert Murdoch-backed satcaster BSkyB, mobile phone outfit Orange and cell-phone retailer-turned-telco Carphone Warehouse.

National telco BT, which leads the U.K. broadband market, will launch its online entertainment service BT Vision later this year.

All of these players are fighting to become the primary supplier of entertainment and telco services to the U.K.’s converged broadband homes.

NTL is offering free digital TV (excluding premium channels) to any new customers who sign up for its fixed-line phone service before September. The new subscribers will also have access to video-on-demand and other interactive services.

Offer is pitched as a direct challenge to the hugely successful Freeview service, which requires viewers to buy a set-top box to receive free digital terrestrial TV channels.

“Why pay upfront for a Freeview box without access to the most advanced TV features when with us you’ll pay nothing upfront and get access to it all?” said NTL chief exec Steve Burch.

Freeview general manager Cary Wakefield maintained that Freeview’s simplicity, with its one-off payment and “absolute promise of no subscription — we won’t tie you to a phone service,” will ensure that Freeview remains the No. 1 choice of householders switching TVs to digital. 

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