ITV keeps quiet on BSkyB offer

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The Independent Online
ITV'S REFUSAL to distribute its signals over BSkyB's satellite network looked set to continue last night after the satellite broadcaster offered guarantees about digital take-up backed by compensation payments if targets weren't met.

In a letter sent to the ITV network centre two months ago, BSkyB urged the commercial broadcaster to add its channels to the digital satellite platform and offered to guarantee a take-up of 2.5 million homes by the end of 2001. BSkyB fleshed out the guarantee by proposing to compensate the ITV network with a payment of pounds 16 for every household by which it fell short of the 2.5 million threshold.

To date ITV has yet to respond to BSkyB's proposal. The network wasn't able to comment last night. As Britain's most-watched television channel, ITV has remained aloof from BSkyB's satellite network though the BBC and Channels 4 and 5 are distributed over Sky Digital.

Analysts have assumed ITV will eventually be available over digital satellite as it is available over analogue and digital cable platforms. Indeed, ITV receives a rebate of part of its advertising revenue levy to the government for every household it broadcasts to in digital.

So far, ITV's digital distribution has been limited to the less than 500,000 households that signed up to ONdigital. ONdigital is jointly owned by Granada and Carlton who are thought to remain keen to keep the network off Sky Digital for the time being.

Despite the recent rebound in ITV viewer share to 40 per cent, its share in Sky digital households, where viewers must switch out of the system, is only 31 per cent.

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