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TV Internet access will never take off

So says BSkyB

BskyB is pouring scorn on rival ONdigital’s plans to offer subscribers fully fledged, TV-based Internet access.

Despite the current excitement surrounding set-top boxes and Web access over TVs - particularly for the two thirds of UK households who have yet to invest in a PC - the Murdoch-backed broadcaster claims to have no interest in ever offering a standard Internet connection as part of its service.

“You look and interact with TV in a totally different way to a PC,” said BSkyB’s corporate communications manager Andrew Scholl. “With the TV you’re sitting 10 to 20 feet away with a beer on your belly and a packet of Doritos.”

Scholl told PC Advisor that BSkyB would instead be concentrating on providing enhanced interactive TV functions through its online arm, Open.

Defending the company’s walled garden approach, where user navigation is strictly policed, Scholl questioned the commercial logic behind ONdigital’s ONnet service, which goes live 18 September priced at £5 per month.

“Once a subscriber decides to buy a book off Amazon you’ve lost them. On Open if anyone buys a pizza – we get a cut of it,” said Scholl.

Scholl also questioned the quality of ONnet’s impending service, with user’s struggling with rich media content requiring plug-ins for Realplayer and Flash applications.

He also envisaged set up difficulties for subscribers, claiming that 86% of ONdigital subscribers don’t have their set-top boxes connected to the phone line. BSkyB, by contrast, sends an engineer round whenever its digital service is installed to ensure a connection to the phone line (and hence a potential additional revenue stream).

BSkyB is currently claiming 1.6 million users of its Open interactive TV service with 1.1 million using it once a week or more for banking, shopping and email. Nearly a million (950,000) have used the email service, according to the company.

BSkyB has 3.8 million users, well ahead of ONdigital’s 774,000.

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