BBC Online stalls Internet launch

BBC Online is to delay the introduction of its branded Internet access service, but push ahead with the staggered roll out of paid-for online content from February 24.

The joint venture with leading IT company ICL, originally announced last September, was scheduled to launch this spring.

It aims to offer both original BBC-derived content and full Internet access to consumers to “position the BBC as one of the UK’s leading online service providers”.

Under the deal, ICL is funding the development and marketing of the service, while no BBC Worldwide money is being committed.

But despite tests by the two partners of potential revenue-generating areas, including online shopping for BBC merchandising, it is now understood that the launch of the BBC-branded full Internet access service will not occur until the autumn.

The BBC is, however, pushing ahead a low-key “soft launch” for elements of BBC-branded content, being developed at BBC Television Centre. This content will be made available to both BBC Online subscribers and other Internet users.

Head of BBC Online marketing Simon Johnson says: “We will be launching a Fantasy Formula One interactive game from February 24 on the TopGear site, which will be a pay game, costing 10 per entry. There will be a sequence of other launches of BBC-designed content in the run-up to autumn.”

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