BT Vision on standby as main feature hits interference

BT will launch its long-awaited broadband television service on Monday, finally entering a market that it has talked about joining for a decade However, viewers will have to wait until next year to take advantage of catch-up television services from the BBC or ITV, which allow people to watch programmes they missed in the last few days.

Such a “catch-up” service for the BBC is already available on the rival television services NTL and HomeChoice, while ITV is yet to launch. Channel 4 is the only mainstream broadcaster that provides viewers with catch-up television.

Instead, BT hopes to woo viewers with a range of content, ranging from children’s programmes from Nickelodeon, home to SpongeBob SquarePants, music videos from Warner Music, films from Walt Disney, the studio behind Pirates of the Caribbean, in the belief that Freeview viewers are willing to pay to buy shows on demand.

The absence of BBC programmes going back seven days stems from the fact that the Corporation needs to win approval for the service from its regulator, the BBC Trust.

Although an application has been made to the trust by the BBC’s management, a decision is not due be made until next year.

A spokesman for BT said: “It is not critical to have this on launch. BT and BBC have to agree a deal that is commercially appropriate to both parties — and there are regulatory reasons, too.’’ He added that “on day one, BT Vision will have a cracking line up of content”.

BT’s launch into television will see it offer all Freeview channels alongside an array of on-demand content. Adult entertainment will also be available. However, the group, which had been expected to push its television product aggressively, will now not advertise it to non-BT broadband customers until the spring.

The service forms part of wider efforts by the former monopoly to offset the fall in revenues from its traditional fixed-line calls business. It will also, the group hopes, help to lock in broadband customers in what is an increasingly cut-throat market.

Customers who want the service will need a set-top box and a BT broadband connection, but will not be required to pay a monthly subscription, which BT aims to promote as a key selling point.

Vision, which has already been delayed once, was scheduled to go live in the autumn.

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