BSkyB to launch standalone VOD service

U.K. satcaster squares up to Netflix

LONDON — The uber competitive BSkyB is to launch its own on-demand service as it attempts to head off competition from Netflix and impending U.K. smart TV service YouView.

Consumers will be able to choose from a variety of pricing options, including unlimited monthly pay-as-you-go access — a significant departure from BSkyB’s subscription-based business model.

Announcing the move as it revealed six monthly figures that showed a slowdown in the number of new pay TV subscribers, CEO Jeremy Darroch claimed the initiative would offer “a distinctive” new choice for the 13 million U.K. households that do not buy pay TV.

He added, “This new product launch will build on our early leadership in multi-platform distribution. It will allow us to make our expertise and investment in content and technology work even harder, extending our options for continued growth.”

BSkyB’s on demand offer will bow in the first half of the year. Sky Movies will be available from the start, with sport and entertainment added later in the year.

Darroch said: “Alongside the continued growth of our satellite platform, this will be a new way for us to reach out to consumers who may not want the full Sky service.”

Netflix has got off to a strong start in the U.K. and the much-delayed YouView, whose backers include the BBC and BT, is expected to bow late in the spring.

BSkyB’s six-monthly figures showed that the satcaster added 40,000 new TV customers in the second quarter to Dec. 31, missing analysts’ forecasts of 58,000 and down on the 140,000 net additions in the same period in 2010.

Competition in the U.K. VOD space further increased on Tuesday as Miramax and paybox BT Vision inked a licensing agreement that will bulk up the service’s U.S. content with pics including “Chicago,” “Pulp Fiction,” both “Kill Bill” pics, “The Aviator” and the first three installments of the “Scream” franchise.

The digital terrestrial and broadband service, owned by local telco BT, already offers fare from Warner Bros., Universal and Film4.

Diana Lodderhose in London contributed to this report.