BSkyB counts on satellite revolution

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The Independent Online

Media Editor

David Elstein, programme director of BSkyB, told a Royal Television Society conference yesterday that this time next year it would be broadcasting over 100 channels - a huge expansion on the nine it now operates.

Mr Elstein said Sky viewed the forthcoming expansion of digital satellite broadcasting as an opportunity to reinvent itself, similar to 1989 when Sky started direct-to-home broadcasting, breaking the hold of the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

Once the Luxembourg SES Astra company (which broadcasts Sky) launches its new high-powered satellites this autumn and at the beginning of next year, many new services will be technically possible. Mr Elstein said Sky might use the capacity to start premiere films at a variety of times, say, 9pm, 11pm, midnight and 1am, and offer a "video on demand" service . Sky also expected to introduce more tiers of pay television, including pay-for-view "tickets" for concerts and sporting fixtures.

He stressed that the changes would mean harmonising digital conditional access systems (encryption standards) across Europe - an issue at the centre of fierce political debate as public service broadcasters, including the BBC, fear a Rupert Murdoch-led domination.

"All investment decisions have to be taken now," Mr Elstein said. "We are going to get 10 times larger. The degree of reinvention is enormous."