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
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.