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Telewest, NTL unveil VoD services

Job cuts sour video-on-demand launch

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The UK's two cablcecos have unveiled their video-on-demand services today as they look to bring greater flexibility to digital TV viewers.

Telewest has brought a movies-on-demand service to its dTV punters in Bristol ahead of plans to launch a wider choice of TV-on-demand services beginning summer 2005. The UK's second largest cableco is investing around £20m in the development of its TV-on-demand and personal video recorder (PVR) services in 2005.

Initially, the new service will be available to more than 2100 dTV customers who will be able to watch the latest films whenever they want through their existing cable set-top box.

The movies-on-demand service also provides the same controls as watching a DVD or video including pausing, fast forwarding and rewinding programmes.

NTL's new Video-on-Demand (VoD) service is to be launched in Glasgow before being rolled out to other parts of NTL's franchise. Much like the Telewest service, NTL On Demand, as it's called, will give viewers access to hundreds of hours of additional programming, including advert-free children's programmes, a music video jukebox service and adult content.

For both Telewest and NTL, the movie service is provided by FilmFlex, a joint venture company between Sony, Disney and the On Demand Group, will offer hundreds of films including the latest blockbusters and golden oldies.

Said Telewest boss Eric Tveter: "This new service puts consumers in control, giving them the freedom to watch the movies they want, whenever they want to watch them. It's simply the easiest way to enjoy a movie and there's no need to visit the video store, miss the end of a film or pay late fees ever again."

Today's announcement by NTL was overshadowed by news that the cableco is cutting the number of engineers who maintain the cableco's TV and broadband network by 35. According to insiders, staff were told yesterday and have been given 30 days' notice.

A spokeswoman for NTL said the job losses were part of an "ongoing process" at the cableco. However, she denied reports by Cable Forum that NTL is about to embark on a major redundancy programme that could result in the loss of between 10-15 per cent of its entire workforce ahead of a merger with Telewest later this year. ®

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