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Saturday, February 10, 2007
Sky digital terrestrial TV DTT subscription service launch un UK
Sky, the satellite television broadcaster of the United Kingdom, has announced its plans to launch a new digital terrestrial television (DTT) service in the summer.

The new service will allow customers to receive some of Sky's most popular programmes -- including sports and movies -- through a conventional rooftop aerial and a DTT box for a monthly subscription.

The array of channels on the new terrestrial service will offer a range of content including sports, movies, entertainment and news. The sports service will include live coverage from the Barclays Premiership.

This new foray into terrestrial TV will make use of the existing capacity that Sky currently uses to broadcast Sky Three, Sky News, and Sky Sports News on the Freeview DTT service. Consequently, these channels will cease to be available free-to-air via DTT in advance of the launch of the pay-TV service.

Sky also plans to broadcast its pay-TV channels on DTT using the more efficient MPEG4 as opposed to MPEG2 used on Freeview, enabling Sky to offer four video streams in place of the three Sky channels currently available. Further improvements are expected in the future.

The pay-TV service will use the highly secure conditional access (CA) system similar to the one that is in use for Sky's current digital satellite television system.

To access the service, customers will need to buy a new set-top box (STB) that includes the relevant CA software and MPEG4 decoder.

If Sky DTT is being launched with four channels, the STB will also incorporate traditional MPEG2 decoding to view the current Freeview channels. This would be similar to the recently launched BT Vision which allows downloadable content from BT plus standard Freeview channels.

But, if Sky is releasing an STB that allows Freeview channels, Premiership Football, good Sky One programming, and up-to-date movies without the need for a dish as well as better top-up TV on Freeview, people are going to buy the Sky-backed STB, especially if it is not necessary to buy the subscription.

It is highly likely that Sky will also add a similar video-on-demand service that will be strongly coupled to the new Sky broadband provision, again adding incentive to buy a Sky-branded STB as opposed to a bog-standard Freeview box.

In short, Sky could not only be the only satellite service in the UK but also the main dominant player in the DTT pay-TV spectrum.

Of course, all this is conditional on Ofcom allowing the service to go ahead. It remains to be seen whether Sky would be allowed to segment further and dominate the market.

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