Media Lifeline: Sky's services

Having thrust itself into the new-media arena, BSkyB's digital offering has snowballed.

1998: BSkyB, which had launched its analogue service in 1989, launches Sky Digital on 1 October from a new generation of Astra satellites. Its chief executive, Tony Ball (pictured), sees off competition from ITV Digital by giving away free digital boxes.

2001: Sky+, a subscription-based personal video recorder service, is launched with huge fanfare, and is later backed by a £20 million ad campaign starring unlikely flatmate pairings such as Alice Cooper and Ronnie Corbett. Penetration builds slowly but surely, breaking through the two-million mark in January 2007.

2005: Sky launches its first foray into broadband with the launch of Sky By Broadband. This is not to be confused with the launch in 2006 of its broadband ISP product - the first high-profile strategic gamble by James Murdoch (pictured), the new chief executive of BSkyB.

2006: On May 2006, Sky launches its high-definition television service for customers prepared to pay £299 for a Sky HD Digibox and a £10-a-month surcharge to their normal Sky subscription. Although there are only a handful of HD channels available and a shortage of boxes in the early months, penetration reaches 184,000 by the end of the year.

2007: As Virgin Media launches with its quad play (landline plus mobile telephony, broadband and digital television), Sky responds by announcing that it is to develop new subscription services on the digital terrestrial television platform best known to date for its free-to-air Freeview service.

Fast forward ...

2008: When Sky merges its broadband provider with BT's and develops next-generation video-on-demand services, it effectively becomes a cable operator as well as a satellite and digital terrestrial broadcaster. Now it seeks to become the world's pre-eminent mobile TV operator in a joint venture deal involving South Korea's high-technology company LG, and the Hutchison Whampoa subsidiary 3.


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