BSkyB is to switch off its analogue transmission signal from the
end of 2002 in a move that is set to transform the digital television
revolution in the UK.
To meet the switch-off deadline, Sky is to give away the set-top
decoders necessary to receive the digital pictures - a strategy that has
also precipitated a price war with its digital rival, ONdigital.
From 1 June, all analogue BSkyB 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 pounds 40 installation fee. ONdigital is
also planning to give away free digital terrestrial set-top boxes for a
Sky research claims that the price of digital TV hardware is the last
major hurdle deterring potential subscribers.
According to BSkyB’s chief executive, Mark Booth, the plans ’will
transform the company and the entire industry’.
Sky is the first broadcaster to set a date for its analogue
The Government has so far shied-away from imposing a switch-off date for
the entire TV industry, and it is not expected to impose one which falls
during the next ten to 15 years.
Sky has also joined with BT to offer Sky Digital subscribers a 40 per
cent discount off their standard-rate calls. And it is launching a free
internet service provider, skynow, which will be free to both Sky
Digital customers and non-customers.
Twenty-four 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. Meanwhile, monthly subscriptions to
Sky will rise by a maximum of pounds 2 in June, although the new charges
will not be introduced for current subscribers until September 2001.