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ONdigital's U.K. Internet Service to Launch in Fall

[London, ENGLAND] U.K. digital TV broadcaster ONdigital announced Tuesday that it will launch a full TV-based Internet service later this year.

ONdigital's Chief Executive Stuart Prebble said that in the first six months of 2000, ONdigital has been transformed from being a multichannel TV company to one with an interactive platform packed with new media services.

"Now we will take interactivity to an entirely new level. I can announce that from this autumn we will make the Internet available to our customers through their TVs -- no dish, no cable and no PC," said Prebble.

The move to the full Internet by ONdigital, which has already begun offering e-mail to its users, will greatly broaden the base of Internet usage in the U.K. At June 30 it had 740,000 paying subscribers and expects to have 1 million by next year and 2 million by the end of 2002.

The new Internet service will be called ONnet, fronted by a portal designed by BBC Resources in conjunction with content partners Abbey National, Bigsave.com, BlueSq, Cahoot, Co-op Travel, Iceland and thomascook.com. Prebble said ONdigital was also negotiating with nearly 100 other companies for content.

Most significantly, ONdigital plans to link TV shows with Web sites, creating an instant-buying facility that will enable consumers to purchase products they see on television.

"This facility, which we call cross-linking, will transform the way people watch and interact with their TVs. It unleashes the true potential of digital TV," said Prebble.

One of ONnet's key features will be full access to the Internet instead of the walled garden approach of other TV-based platforms. Physically, the enabling electronics will be packaged as a paperback-sized box, bringing the Internet into the home without the need to spend hundreds of pounds on a personal computer.

Clearly on a roll among U.K. media suppliers, ONdigital has exclusive rights to UEFA Champions League, Football League and Worthington Cup in sports broadcasting, while having also signed up The Adult Channel, TVX, TV Travel Shop and Simply Money to its platform. It says, too, that Nickelodeon, The Paramount Comedy Channel and ITN News will be joining over the next 6 months.

Millions of British TV viewers still have access to only five broadcast channels -- giving ONdigital plenty of scope for expansion.