BT Group Plc, the former UK incumbent, has unveiled another content deal as part of its move to tap into the triple-play market, specifically the ability to push TV content over its IP network.
BT announced a deal with TV production company Endemol to license programming and develop cutting-edge interactive content for its next-generation TV offering. The two companies intend to build on Endemol’s experience of developing interactive TV formats.
This deal with BT underlines our commitment to remaining at the forefront of digital media and developing new ways of entertaining people, said Peter Cowley, director of digital media at Endemol UK: Endemol is perhaps best known for inflicting the reality television programme, Big Brother, on the world.
Last month, BT signed deals with announced three deals with rights owners in order to widen the range of family entertainment available on its national next-generation TV offering, commonly referred to as IPTV. It added deals with documentary maker National Geographic Channel, and with kids TV programming provider HIT Entertainment and Nelvana. HIT Entertainment offers kids programs such as Bob the Builder and Pingu.
Prior to that in December last year, it signed deals with BBC Worldwide, Paramount, and Warner Music Group to provide broadcast content. This included television shows such as Dr Who and EastEnders, films such as Forrest Gump and It’s a Wonderful Life, and music from the likes of Madonna and David Gray.
BT is actually beginning trials of the service in the spring, with a start slated for autumn 2006. The service is as yet unnamed, but will be free to BT broadband customers who will be able to pick from a catalogue of films, music, and television programming, as well as interactive and communications services, all via their television sets. There will also be a pay-per-view option.
BT is the largest provider of fixed-line services in the UK. Customers who sign up to the service can expect to get a set-top box that incorporates a Freeview digital receiver, as well as a personal video recorder or PVR. The PVR is increasingly being viewed as the modern-day VCR because it enables users to pause and rewind live television, and record up to 80 hours of programming. The uptake of these machines could have adverse financial implications for commercial broadcasters because users often use the PVR to skip ads, their main source of income.
BT signed a deal with Philips to supply the set-top box. It also has an alliance with Microsoft, which will provide Microsoft TV IPTV Edition as the software platform.
BT is hoping to capitalize on the demand for home entertainment, and its solution gives householders the ability to pick and choose their viewing without the monthly subscriptions for alternative services provided by the likes of UK satellite broadcaster, British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc, and UK cable giant NTL Inc.
However, BSkyB has recently launched its IPTV service known as Sky By Broadband, available at no extra charge to existing Sky digital customers. Customers are able to download more than 200 DVD-quality movies and 1,000 sports highlights directly to their PC. The BBC is also currently trialling a similar system.