Digital TV broadcaster sets out stall

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THE BATTLE for control of digital television started in earnest yesterday as ONdigital, the broadcaster, unveiled details of its launch date and channel line-up.

From 15 November, viewers signing up to ONdigital will be able to choose six pay-TV channels from a package of 18 for pounds 7.99 a month. For an extra fee, they will also be able to subscribe to premium sports and movie channels from Sky and Channel 4.

ONdigital will compete head-on with the digital offering from British Sky Broadcasting, whose 140-channel satellite service launches on Thursday. Cable operators are planning to launch their digital services next year. Sky is offering a cut-price package of six channels for pounds 6.99 a month, but this does not allow subscribers to pick and choose.

Meanwhile, Cable & Wireless Communications, the cable operator, will from next Monday offer a small package of television channels and a telephone line for pounds 9.99 a month. It also pledged to give existing customers a free upgrade to digital television when it launches its service in the spring.

Stephen Grabiner, ONdigital's chief executive, said the service would be "easy to get and easy to use" and would offer "something for everyone".

Subscribers will need to buy a set-top box decoder costing pounds 199 in order to receive the service. However, they do not need a satellite dish as ONdigital works through an existing television aerial.

ONdigital will also be available on the integrated digital television service which will be in the shops by Christmas. The service will be backed by a massive pounds 90m advertising campaign which starts today.

ONdigital's package of primary pay-TV channels includes Sky One, Eurosport, the Carlton Network, UK Gold, Carlton Select and the Cartoon Network. In addition, subscribers will receive free channels not available on regular television from the BBC and ITV Shop!, the home shopping service.

The broadcaster is planning a new channel, to be called First ONdigital, which will show specially commissioned programmes including sports, entertainment, comedy and music.

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