BBC looks to link up with Sky as satellite service blasts off

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The Independent Online

The BBC wants to come on board BSkyB's free-to-air digital satellite venture, which its chief executive, James Murdoch, announced last week.

The BBC wants to come on board BSkyB's free-to-air digital satellite venture, which its chief executive, James Murdoch, announced last week.

The BBC had been in talks, along with other broadcasters, about forming a consortium with BSkyB to launch the service. But even after BSkyB had decided to go it alone, Andy Duncan, BBC director of marketing, said there was still an opportunity to join forces.

"We are in discussion with BSkyB about how we might work together. We would bring our brand credibility and support and could link the venture to a public service marketing campaign," said Mr Duncan.

The BBC, together with BSkyB and Crown Castle, is already part of the consortium running Freeview, the free digital terrestrial service. It has denied that BSkyB's service is a threat to Freeview, insisting it gives more choice to viewers.

Mr Duncan added that the BBC was also in talks with other broadcasters about launching a rival free-to-air digital satellite service. But ITV, which spent more than £1bn on its failed platform ITV Digital, is not understood to be one of them.

"If there is competition in these areas, it's good for consumers in terms of pricing and choice," Mr Duncan said.

BSkyB's new package, "free sat", will later this year offer viewers 200 Sky channels as well as terrestrial digital channels, for a one-off £150 install- ation fee. Sky wants to sell interactive digital services to "free sat" viewers and convert them to subscription packages.

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