BT trials interactive broadband television

An interactive broadband television service from BT and Yes Television will be piloted in London from April as BT competes for a slice of the interactive television pie in the UK.

The co-branded service will provide true video on demand (VOD), Internet access and email services to a television set top box over ADSL phone lines. Consumers will have access to a wide range of VOD content and television programming, 50 selected 'Web channels', and full open Internet access. Email will be provided through BT's Talk21 service, via an infrared keyboard. The service will offer speeds of up to 2.3MB/sec, with upstream rates of 128kb/s.

Yes Television is already providing interactive services to operators ntl and Kingston. While Yes head of marketing Steve Garvey stresses that the company is "not interested in trying to run a network," the jointly branded deal means that the company will "have to make some commercial decisions over the summer," as to whether it will join up with BT to offer a challenge to other providers of interactive television.

The deal with Yes could also give BT a headstart in the battle to win subscribers to interactive services as ADSL is rolled out in the UK. At present the telco's license prevents it from delivering television services but this is due for review next year. According to Garvey, Yes has applied for a local delivery license could be used to add television programming to the service.

The pilot will be used to examine the commercial validity of the service and varying packages of content. The results of the trial, involving around 400 homes in West London, will determine plans for a national rollout of a full commercial service.

A move into interactive television is likely to be extremely profitable for BT according to a report from BMRB, published Monday. It suggests that the e-commerce opportunities offered by interactive television could eventually outstrip PC based online shopping.

The survey found that in the two months since the launch of interactive services, seven percent (280,000) of Sky Digital subscribers have made a purchase via their TV set. This compares to just 220,000 Internet users that had made an online purchase at the same stage of development for PC-based shopping.

"On-line TV shopping growth could well outstrip the rise in PC e-commerce this year," predicts Paul Milsom, author of the survey.

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