Telewest to launch HDTV this year – ahead of Sky

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Let’s face it, in the battle for the digital TV high ground, cable has always come out second to Sky. But now it seems Telewest is fighting back, announcing that it is to launch a High Definition TV service this year – several months ahead of its deadly rival, at least according to industry magazine New Media Markets. Content will be distributed through Telewest’s video-on-demand network and will only be available by using its personal video recorder (PVR). The BBC’s natural-history series, Planet Earth, is one of the HDTV offerings that Telewest is likely to show. Other content could come from the US where high-definition TV content is now about the same price as standard definition.
Launched in January, Telewest’s VOD network is currently only available to 2,000 customers in Bristol. However, Telewest claims it will be rolled out to all 1.2million digital TV customers across the UK by early 2006. Its PVR box, a 160GB model with three tuners is expected to be available in the next couple of months. Click here for details.

Meanwhile, BSkyB is working on a new version of its PVR – called unofficially Sky Plus Plus – which will support HD. BSkyB has publicly committed to launching HDTV in 2006 although some kind of service may now launch before the end of the year. NTL, which is expected to merge with Telewest very soon, currently has its own plans for HDTV and a PVR which it expects to launch next year.

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