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Wary launch imminent for BT broadband telly

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BT will quietly launch its long-trailed TV over broadband service Vision on Monday.

The IPTV package brings the 30ish Freeview channels plus a host of premium on-demand content to the firm's broadband base. A set-top box will offer Sky+ style PVR capability with its hard drive able to store 80 hours of programming.

A string of deals with content providers Disney, Channel 4, SonyBMG, the FA Premiership, and others will see movies, music videos, and sport available on a paid-for basis to supplement Freeview channels. BT says there will be no charges for unwanted Vision services - anything apart from Freeview will be opt-in.

BT will not begin big splash advertising of Vision until spring. Next week's launch will see pricing and programmming strategy fleshed out, but early numbers will be carefully watched to avoid embarrassing supply delays. A spokesman said the firm would be taking a "sensible approach" to the rollout.

The problems experienced by Carphone Warehouse and Orange in the rollout of their "free" broadband services earlier this year have acted as an augury to the rapidly converging communications and media industries.

Elsewhere, O2 has made it clear it is concentrating on establishing the infrastructure of its broadband service before a marketing push. Along with Vodafone it will eschew a "free" pitch in favour of emphasising quality of service.

Few expect BT to wrest a very large portion of the pay TV market away from Sky and cable monopoly NTL (soon to be rebranded as Virgin Media). The rationale backing Vision surrounds customer retention and adding value to its position in the broadband market. ®

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