- Granada Media Group is to become the first media company to provide free access to the internet through the television.
The ground-breaking move comes through an exclusive alliance with PowerChannel Europe in which Granada will invest £13.5 million and take a 23.5 per cent equity stake.
Consumers will receive an internet box giving them full access to the internet and emails through their TV. In exchange users will be asked to complete a brief monthly consumer survey online and pay a refundable £30 deposit.
The TV internet box can be connected to any analogue or digital television and phone line, and is operated by a remote control keyboard. Internet call charges will be at local rates.
The boxes will be distributed through 440 Granada Rental shops and will be available nationwide from July. It is anticipated that over 200,000 boxes will be available in the first six months.
Steve Morrison, chief executive of Granada Media, said: "This alliance changes the rules of the internet. Up to now, home internet access has been restricted to those who own computers and an estimated 70 per cent of UK homes are not yet online. From now on, it's no longer necessary to have a computer in order to access the internet. We are offering anyone who has a TV and a phone, the opportunity to get online."
The new service will use Granada Media's portal g-wizz.net as its internet service provider. In addition to internet access and e-mail, g-wizz offers viewers content and a range of entertainment sites that relate to programmes including Coronation Street and Emmerdale.
The alliance will also use Ask Jeeves UK (ask.co.uk), the internet search engine which allows users to ask questions in plain, everyday language, as its default search engine. Granada owns 25 per cent of Ask Jeeves UK.
PowerChannel is an internet-based service that specialises in collecting consumer demographic information for financial product marketing companies. The sale of the information that consumers of the new free service will provide is the basis of PowerChannel's business model.