NTL gains millionth digital subscriber

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The Independent Online

The cable firm NTL notched up its millionth digital subscriber yesterday, putting it within a whisker of stealing ITV Digital's second place slot in domestic digital television. But analysts said it still faced an uphill struggle to pose a threat to the market leader, BSkyB.

NTL is attempting to convert its 2.9 million customers from analogue to digital, and said it was on track to beat its target of 1.25 million digital subscribers by the end of the year.

BSkyB, whose digital service requires a satellite dish, has some 5.3 million digital subscribers, equivalent to 97 per cent of its customer base. It plans to switch off its analogue service next month.

ITV Digital, a joint venture between Granada and Carlton, had 1.14 million subscribers at the end of June, while the cable firm Telewest Communications had 564,000 subscribers.

Anthony de Larrinaga, a media analyst at SG Securities, said: "Every subscriber is a landmark for cable. The issue is whether cable can become an alternative platform to satellite and deliver better content than Sky, and it's not looking much of a threat."

Rather than depend on cable or satellite installation, ITV Digital, formerly ONdigital, is broadcast over the terrestrial network and requires a set-top box to decode the signal.

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