Cable TV industry targets business

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The Independent Online
The cable television industry is to launch a business television service in a drive to increase its penetration of the industrial and commercial sector. The service is likely to include a range of television channels, live share price and other fi nancial information and news wire services.

Ultimately, the service may also incorporate access to databases and facilities including video-conferencing.

The Cable Communications Association will co-ordinate the effort. Richard Woollam, the CCA's director-general, said: "The industry is beginning to say that having addressed the residential market we now have to offer a package of television and communications products for businesses. I suggest this could happen very quickly."

The industry already has a model. Videotron, a cable company with a telecommunications licence in parts of London, is poised to introduce a business service delivered over the telephone wire into a standard personal computer. Videotron offers channels such as CNN, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. It incorporates broadcasts of Reuters business television and news from the main European broadcasters.

Users will have access to 11 news wires and to live information on shares, currencies and commodities. The service is likely to cost about £320 per terminal per month. A spokesman for Videotron said that some financial information services can cost thousands of pounds each month. "What we are offering is the first of its kind in the UK. It is a one-stop shop."

Mr Woollam said the CCA aimed to take this kind of offering nationwide over the next 12 months. It could be offered as a stand-alone service or integrated with the normal telephone service.

The CCA believes that the "vision element" is vital to give it an edge over the growing number of telephone operators, among them AT&T, Energis and London-based companies including MFS and Colt. However, Mr Woollam said: "This is about businesses all over the UK. It will give them access to things they would not otherwise get or could afford."

The cable industry has 750,000 telephone exchange lines installed, of which only 80,000 are business lines. The business TV drive is also intended to accelerate the growth in business telephony.

The industry is not alone in its aspirations. Today sees the launch of a Europe-wide business news service by NBC Superchannel and Financial Times Television. Called the European Money Wheel, it will provide a real-time business information service from 10am to 2pm each day. It will be available on cable or satellite.

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