BT Group Plc, the former telecoms incumbent in the UK, continues to examine alternative strategies to offset the decline in its traditional fixed-line business, with the news that it is in advanced discussions with UK-based television content providers, including the BBC, ITV, and Sky.
The talks are centering on BT securing the rights to offer its broadband consumers popular TV programs over its high-speed internet connections. This is part of BT’s move into so called new wave services, as the telecoms operator searches for a major growth engine to make up for the lack of a mobile phone unit, which most of its European competitors such as France Telecoms SA (with Orange) and Deutsche Telekom AG (with T-Mobile) enjoy.
After a very slow start in rolling out broadband access in the United Kingdom, BT’s roll-out is now nearing completion, and the carrier hopes that by offering a range of value-added services including pay-per-view TV and VoIP, it can carve itself a dominant position in the emerging triple play market of video, internet access, and voice telephony.
BT has apparently been in discussions with the makers of Freeview boxes (a digital TV box that allows users to view 30 or more free digital TV stations in the UK). In the UK at the moment, some 3.9 million homes now have Freeview boxes.
BT is looking to develop a branded set-top box that will connect its broadband services to TV sets. This will allow it to offer a video-on-demand system through a broadband phone line.
Trials of the system are due to start with a few hundred customers this week, and BT hopes to have a full commercial launch of the service in the summer of 2005.