British Sky Broadcasting Plc is set to announce its expected joint venture with British Telecommunications Plc and Matsushuta Electric Industrial Co to supply decoders for digital television this Wednesday, according to the Financial Times. The deal, first reported in ComputerWire on January 2 (CI No 3,069), also has the backing of the Midland Bank Plc, with BSkyB and British Telecom taking a 30% stake each, the others a 20% stake. The aim is to subsidise the cost of digital decoder set-top boxes required for BSkyB’s proposed launch of 200 digital television channels in the UK, a service expected to commence in the spring of next year, along with a set of interactive services such as Internet access and home shopping and banking. The three will form a new company, British Interactive Broadcasting, in a venture worth $1bn, claims the report. BSkyB refused to comment. The deal is though to have been delayed six months by regulatory concerns. But third-party access to the system for other television providers will be offered, and digital satellite, digital terrestial and digital cable systems will be linked in. Matsushita will take on the hardware side of the venture, but it’s not clear yet just who will be manufacturing the set-top boxes. Potential suppliers incluide Samsung Electronics Co, Pace Micro Technology Plc and Philips Electronics Plc. Boxes that would normally cost 500 pounds could be reduced in cost to 200 pounds as a result of the venture.
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