ONdigital defends Internet plans

Granada to stop selling ONnet set-top boxes in retail channel

ONdigital was forced to fend off criticism of its Internet plans on Monday, after news of a major retail setback to its ONnet set-top boxes.

It emerged over the weekend that Granada, joint owner of ONdigital, is to stop selling the set-top box in its 500 Box Clever shops. The box makes ONdigital's set-top boxes capable of accessing the Internet. An internal memo cited by the Observer newspaper said sales through Box Clever and other retailers had been poor.

ONdigital said the move simply reflected the realities of the way ONnet is sold. "Currently around 75 percent of ONnet sales come through our direct channels, and we are modifying our stocking policy to reflect this," said a spokesman. "Holding stock centrally and direct delivery to customers gives efficiencies to both ONdigital and our retail parteners."

As of January ONnet had attracted 70,000 subscribers, each of whom pays a £5-per-month subscription fee.

Last week ONnet received another setback when the Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints about the way the service is advertised. BSkyB, which owns the competing Open interactive-TV service, and three members of the public complained that ONnet's claims of offering "full" Internet access are inaccurate because the service does not offer Internet services such as ftp and newsgroups, and may not be able to access Web sites using complex technologies such as Flash.

Interactive television has become an important part of the government's plans to get Britain online, because such systems don?t require expensive computer eqipment.

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