ONdigital closes gap on Sky as subscriptions leap 66%

ONdigital is catching up with its arch rival BSkyB in the battle for viewers, as its subscription sales hit 411,000.

ONdigital is catching up with its arch rival BSkyB in the battle

for viewers, as its subscription sales hit 411,000.

The data released last week show a 66 per cent advance on the company’s

last quarterly figures, with 82,000 households coming on board in

September alone.

The boost to subscriptions has been attributed partly to ONdigital

gaining the rights to screen the UEFA Champions League.

Last week, the company announced its battleplan for Christmas, with the

launch of pre-paid subscriptions for its digital services.

From 1 November, consumers will be able to buy an ONdigital set-top box

and 12-month basic package of channels at a one-off price of pounds


The ’plug and play’ boxes will go on sale in 1,400 outlets of

Sainsbury’s, Woolworths, Comet, Carphone Warehouse and Argos.

ONdigital is hoping that the pre-paid option could create a whole new

market for set-top boxes, just as it did for mobile phones.

However, a Sky spokesman said: ’We once offered a 12-month pre-paid

option on analogue Sky and it proved to be an absolute disaster.’

He added: ’The City isn’t happy with ONdigital and this could be the

because of the introduction of the pre-paid option.

’When Sky introduced a pre-paid system six years ago, we found that at

the end of the 12-month period, people were not prepared to spend more

than pounds 100 at one time, but were happier spending pounds 7 a


Investors’ feelings were reflected in the share prices on the day of the

announcement - Carlton was down 14p per share and Granada down 5p.

The new pre-paid system was also condemned by critics who have pointed

out that the 12-month subscription is no cheaper for consumers than

paying in monthly instalments.

ONdigital will flag up the pre-pay initiative with an pounds 8 million

national TV and press advertising campaign in the run-up to


Stuart Prebble, ONdigital’s chief executive, said he hoped to have

600,000 subscribers signed up by the end of December.

Sky, which reaches 1.2 million homes, will announce its next quarterly

subscription sales on 19 October. Analysts predict sales will rise to an

estimated 1.5 million.


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