Sky to feed live TV to mobiles phones

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The Independent Online

BSkyB, the pay-TV group, is to offer consumers access to the live content of entire channels through mobile phones, it revealed yesterday. This is likely to include channels aimed at children.

The Sky plans would trump the video content currently available on phones, which is mostly limited to short clips. The company is now in talks with "third generation" mobile phone operators about tying up a revenue-sharing deal under which consumers would be charged for its content on their mobile phone bills.

One such operator is bound to be Vodafone, the world's biggest mobile phone company and the leader in the UK market. Yesterday the mobile group unveiled its latest range of 3G handsets that will be in shops in time for Christmas - a crucial period if mobile phone operators are to make their £20bn-plus investment in 3G technology eventually pay off.

So far, sales of 3G services in the UK have been muted, with the exception of Hutchison Whampoa's "3" service, which has 3.2 million UK subscribers. Vodafone has signed up 300,000 customers in the UK since it launched 3G services November.Consumers seem happy with existing 2.5G technology and have so far seen little point in upgrading to more expensive services.

The eventual launch of content-rich services such as BSkyB's could change that, although television over mobile phones is far from a guaranteed success. Aiming it at children could help it take off, even though the strategy might be controversial.

Richard Freudenstein, Sky's chief operating officer, disclosed the new mobile service at a gathering of industry executives at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge.

The initiative would include Sky channels and third party channels that are carried by Sky on its subscription television service. It would include channels streamed to handsets and programmes made for viewing on mobiles.

"The world is changing," Mr Freudenstein told delegates. "Consumers are using media very differently. They want choice, accessibility, convenience and control." He said that Sky was in negotiations with mobile phone network operators and TV channels.

Separately, Sky disclosed that its next generation of Sky + boxes would have a broadband capability. But consumers would only be able to go through Sky to use the function to download "on demand" content.