BSkyB fuels digital revolution with free set top boxes

- The digital television revolution took a major leap forward this week with the news that BSkyB is giving away free digital set top boxes and stopping analogue transmissions from the end of 2002.

- The digital television revolution took a major leap forward this week with the news that BSkyB is giving away free digital set top boxes and stopping analogue transmissions from the end of 2002.

From June 1 all analogue Sky subscribers will be upgraded to digital for free, until the analogue to digital transition is complete, and for the time being, new subscribers will also receive free set top boxes and will only have to pay a one-off £40 installation fee. The announcement follows the news that rival ONdigital is planning to give away free digital terrestrial set top boxes for a month.

Sky research claims that the price of digital TV hardware is the last major hurdle deterring potential subscribers. According to BSkyB's outgoing chief executive, Mark Booth, the plans "will transform the company and the entire industry."

Sky has also joined up with BT to offer SkyDigital subscribers a 40 per cent discount off their standard rate calls and is launching a free internet service provider, Skynow, which will be free to both SkyDigital customers and non-customers.

Twenty-four new Sky Box Office channels are due to launch in September and Sky Sports Extra, showing interactive instant replays, match statistics and highlights launches in August. Monthly subscriptions to Sky will rise by a maximum of £2 in June, though the new charges won't be introduced for current subscribers until September 2001.

BSkyB also announced that it now has 551,000 digital subscribers, 39 per cent of which are new Sky subscribers, and a pre-tax profit of £69 million for the nine months to the end of March, compared with £203 million for the same period last year.





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