Satellite news 27.06.05


BT pinches staff from Sky and Freeview

BT has raided Freeview and Sky for executives to head up its new entertainment business. BT has appointed Freeview's general manager Lib Charlesworth as head of sales and marketing, and Sky's head of pay-per-view Karen Saunders as head of programmes and acquisitions for its TV services division.

Pressure group backs free satellite TV service

The Voice of the Listener and Viewer pressure group is backing the launch of an independent free-to-air satellite broadcasting system and has called on the government and Ofcom to support the creation of an independent satellite TV service to provide consumers with more choice. It believes Freesat has not being pushed enough and that many viewers are unaware that it is available. Jocelyn Hay, chairman of VLV, said she's concerned that BSkyB's Freesat users need to obtain a viewing card which guarantees them free access only for five years. "Sky has made it clear that, in the event of a card changeover, it will offer replacement cards to viewers for no more than £20," she said.

Sky to launch new video-on-demand service

Sky is reportedly set to announce a Video-On-Demand over broadband service. It will let top tier subscribers (about half the total) download movies and sports programmes to their computers over a broadband connection. The move is being seen as a response to the aggressive plans of cable companies, telcos and ISPs to offer "TV on demand" services. Many media watchers expected Sky to tie up with an operator like BT. The Sky service will apparently only be available via PCs.

Sky unveils new digital TV subscription prices

Sky has unveiled details of its new pricing structure for its digital satellite customers as part of plans to offer greater choice and flexibility. The start of the new pricing on September 1 will coincide with the creation of six genre based packages of channels: Variety; Kids; Knowledge; Style and Culture; Music; and News and Events. Customers will be able to build a package that corresponds to their viewing preferences by selecting any two, any four or all six of the new channel mixes. Customers will pay £15/month for a "2 Mix" pack, £18 for a "4 Mix" pack or £21 for all six mixes, also known as the "Entertainment Pack". Irrespective of their selected combination of mixes, customers will be able to subscribe to any combination of Sky’s premium channels. Under the new model, the price of the top-tier package, Sky World (with Entertainment Pack), will be £42.50/month, compared to the current price of £41.

Lisa Aziz quits Sky News to join ITV West News

Sky News presenter Lisa Aziz is returning to the West Country to front ITV West’s new look early evening news programme. Lisa originally worked as a reporter and presenter with the station from 1984-88. She will be reunited in Bristol with former colleague Richard Lyddon on the ITV West News 6 pm flagship news programme. Lisa was news anchor at TV-AM, then presented programmes on BBC2 before becoming one of the main anchors on Sky News. Lisa said: “Having started my TV career in Bristol, first as a humble trainee at the BBC, then as a reporter and presenter at HTV West, I am really looking forward to living and working in such a challenging news area, and being part of the great ITV family once again, particularly when such exciting changes are underway." Lisa will join ITV in September.

Teletext now offered on all ITV channels

Teletext has launched a digital teletext service across all ITV's satellite channels. Together with NDS, Teletext offers Sky viewers the familiar text based, information service on digital. Digital Teletext on ITV will enable satellite viewers to access content on news, sport, weather, travel and lottery results.

Sky to make Artsworld free-to-air channel

Sky is to take full control of Artsworld and make it available to all its subscribers for no charge. From September, the majority of Sky's 7.7 million subscribers will be able to watch Artsworld, which was previously available only as an a la carte service at £6 a month. John Cassy, Artsworld's channel manager, said: "It is great news for the arts that a dedicated cultural channel will be available to millions of households."

New regional TV channel for the North West?

Phil Redmond, who recently sold independent TV outfit Mersey TV for £35m, has said he wants to launch a digital TV channel for the North West not controlled by mainstream broadcasters. Called a North West Digital Platform, the service would allow the public to air local programme material. He added: "It's a really exciting time to be in the business. What's missing is an exhibition platform, where people can put things up without have to fit in with the BBC, ITV or Channel 4 agenda. I have been involved in the public policy debate about the North West Digital Platform. We are in discussion with the North West Development Agency; they are in theory going to fund it."

Profits at Ideal Shopping soar

Ideal Shopping Direct, the shopping channel operator, has forecast profits for the six months to June 30 are unlikely to be less than £3.5 million - up from the £700,000 reported for the same period last year. It made £4.1 million for the full year 2004.

NTL and Telewest merger edges a step closer

In the clearest sign yet that NTL and Telewest are to merge, they have reportedly admitted that a detailed ‘mutual due diligence’ programme has begun as they edge towards a £6bn merger. The likely structure for the deal has emerged as a cash and shares offer from NTL for Telewest. However, it has also been reported that a sticking point in the talks remains the valuation of Flextech, Telewest's content arm which includes UKTV. Estimates vary from £450m to £1bn.

Digital TV news in brief...

On Sky Digital channel 684, Escape has been renamed Lucky Star TV... NBC Universal is mulling the launch of a second digital channel in the UK to sit alongside the Sci-Fi channel... The BBC had an audience of 4.3 million (50.2% audience share) to watch Tim Henman crash out of Wimbledon last week... Sky News is to broadcast live and verbatim a transcript of the verdict in the murder re-trial of Sion Jenkins, the first time it has ever been allowed in the UK... Soon-to-launch channel ITV4 has been given a budget of £15m for its first year's programme schedule... CANAL+ is expanding its channel line-up from five to eight to include the new local version of CANAL+SPORT and a pair of new film channels... Sweden's TV4 has launched a free live TV channel on Telia's mobile portal, SurfPort... Sky One is to go to the dogs this summer, having bought the series The Dog Whisperer.

Five and UKTV jointly buy rights to prison series

Five is sharing its latest US drama series with UKTV, having jointly acquired a Fox drama that promises to be a big hit. Prison Break follows a man who tries to help his falsely accused brother escape from death row. The show is currently in production and will premiere on Fox in late August.

Regards Satdude.