British Digital Broadcasting (BDB), the new terrestrial television company launched yesterday by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB, Granada and Carlton, is aiming to capture at least 1 million subscribers in its first three years, provided it wins the right to begin services from next summer.
The new television grouping will also provide the BBC with a lucrative platform for its venture into subscription television with Flextech by taking four of the joint venture's channels at premium rates.
As news emerged of BDB's bid for three of the four "multiplexes" or blocks of frequency being offered by the Independent Television Commission, shares in the three companies soared. Each will have a one-third stake in the company and will share evenly in its pounds 300m investment programme to get the terrestrial digital service up and running. However, BDB is facing competition from Britain's third biggest cable operator, the US-owned International CableTel, which has formed a rival company, Digital Television Network (DNT), to bid for the same three multiplexes. DNT is promising a top class line-up of film, sport, entertainment, money and factual channels with the back up of ITN, Hollywood studios and specialist producers. The cable industry also served notice that it could mount an objection to BDB's programme line-up on the grounds that BSkyB was offering its channels in a way that discriminated unfairly against cable television companies. The three television companies behind BDB have been preparing their bid for four months, after Rupert Murdoch at BSkyB, Granada's Gerry Robinson and Carlton's Michael Green came together in a "meeting of minds" last autumn. Together they pose a formidable combination. Carlton is Britain's biggest terrestrial television company owning the Carlton, Central and WestCounty television franchises. Granada owns London Weekend Television in addition to its own North-west franchise and BSkyB is the world's biggest pay satellite TV operator with 6 million subscribers. …