Live in the U.K.: BT Vision

4:00 AM PST 12/05/2006 by Stuart Kemp, AP

Broadband move was long in coming

LONDON -- British Telecom went live Monday with its launch of the company's long-anticipated entry into the broadband television arena, BT Vision, announcing costs to consumers for the first time.

BT Vision combines a Freeview set-top box -- providing access to about 30 television and radio channels -- with high-speed Internet and a digital video recorder allowing viewers to timeshift programs.

The company said it plans to "give away" the V-box -- worth £199 ($393) --- to existing and new customers "who sign up to a new contract with BT Total Broadband."

The set-top box will be installed by a BT engineer and carries an installation fee of £60 ($119) and a connection charge of £30 ($59).

The company said it plans to introduce "a self-install version of BT Vision" sometime next year. BT Vision carries no subscription or minimum monthly payment for its services.

The former state telecom's long-awaited move into home entertainment was boosted by the announcement of an on-demand content deal with EMI music to allow BT Vision to offer back catalog and new videos from EMI's roster of artists including Coldplay, Gorillaz and Lily Allen.

BT already has signed content deals with about 20 suppliers, spanning studios, producers and program distributors and targets the 25% of British homes that have no digital services as well as existing homes that want to upgrade the remainder of their television sets to digital viewing.

BT is late to enter a market where digital television rivals BSkyB, Freeview and NTL already have a presence in 18 of the U.K.'s 25 million television homes. But the former state telco believes that second and third television sets in many homes can be converted to digital cheaply via BT Vision.
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