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ONdigital Claims Million Customers, 10% Interactive

[London, ENGLAND] Digital TV service ONdigital says it has signed its millionth customer in the U.K. and has over a hundred thousand users of its online services.

"Two years from launch we've transformed ONdigital from simply the easiest way to receive multi-channel television into the most interactive TV platform, offering a wide variety of services, from pay TV, and impulse pay per view to Internet access through the TV," said ONdigital's Chief Executive Stuart Prebble.

However, the figures for online access are not yet high enough to put ONdigital into the Top Ten ISPs in the U.K, although it probably makes it a Top Twenty player on a par with a company such as CIX (Compulink Information eXchange) founded 16 years ago.

One reason for its rapid rise is that ONnet customers can surf the Internet freely rather than being kept in a so-called "walled garden" like some users of the TV-based Web.

On the negative side, ONdigital as a whole has a stomach-turning annual churn rate of between 15 and 20 percent, but says this is expected to settle at lower levels as the customer base becomes more mature.

ONdigital is planning to exploit synergies between its TV and Web activities, for example by enhancing its football coverage with additional, interactively accessed information. From February, watchers of live UEFA Champions League matches will be able to get statistics, scores from other matches -- and, if the game is dull, trivia quizzes and spot-the-ball competitions.

ONdigital's interactive service ONnet has signed 56 brands to provide content to its portal. They include brands such as Freeserve Auctions, Ladbroke's, Monster, Radio Times, thomascook.com, Virgin Travel and WH Smith.

Bella Hubble, U.K. managing director of recruitment site monster.co.uk, said that ONnet's plug and play simplicity makes it perfect for first-time Internet users. That fact, she said, is helping Monster extend its market share and keep one step ahead of its competitors.

ONdigital's next milestone is not far away. Thursday this week sees the launch of Channel 4's new entertainment channel, E4.

Already, ONdigital is talking about "the approach of analogue switch-off" -- and says prospective purchasers of TVs should now opt for an interactive digital TV (idTV).