ITV launches broadband TV trial

The TV station has launched a local broadband trial offering 7 channels on the south coast, offering both free and pay-per-view services

ITV has launched a broadband TV trial offering local TV to people in the south coast region, the company announced on Monday.

The ITV Local trial is aimed at viewers in the Brighton and Hastings area, and includes local news and weather, local films and music, an entertainment guide, and classified advertising.

The three-month trial will test consumer demand and, if successful, the company plans to expand the local service to other parts of the UK.

This is the first commercial trial of broadband by a major UK television company. "We've beaten BT and the BBC [to trial broadband], and have something that'll knock their socks off. TV has come of age with ITV Local," said Lindsay Charlton, managing director of ITV Meridian. The BBC is trialling a limited broadband service, called iMP, currently.

The outcome of the trial could affect ITV strategy for possible national ITV broadband channel. "The launch of ITV Local is part of the emerging broadband strategy within ITV," said Charlton.

Viewers will be able to provide and upload their own 'Citizen's TV' reports and a partnership deal with Screen South will allow filmmakers to upload their own films to the channel, ITV said in a statement. "The heart of ITV Local is public participation," Charlton said.

The channel will be "unashamedly commercial", according to Charlton. Revenue will be raised through a variety of different advertising means, including spot advertising, pay-per-view for live services and downloads, and possible subscription services for some sports.

Local sports teams will also be able to upload their matches as well — the Brighton Bears basketball team has already agreed with ITV Local to make its games available, according to Charlton.

As the audience declines in more traditional media, broadcasters will be competing for the same slice of advertising revenue, said Charlton. "ITV1 can no longer guarantee an income stream, especially with other people in the digital marketplace," Charlton said.

ITV Local will compete for local advertising revenue, in a market worth £2bn, through classified and other local advertising, Charlton said.

The service has already proven popular, with over 35,000 users in the first 24 hours, according to Charlton. There are more than 8 million home broadband connections in the UK and according to Ofcom, and there are 250,000 new households are signing up for broadband each month.