United’s ITV stations enter free Internet service market

United News & Media’s ITV stations – Anglia, Meridian, HTV West and HTV Wales – are to launch free branded Internet services through a deal with United’s jointly-owned Line One.

United News & Media’s ITV stations – Anglia, Meridian, HTV West and HTV Wales – are to launch free branded Internet services through a deal with United’s jointly-owned Line One.

The media owner hopes to build a strong online brand presence on the back of its regional TV news and entertainment output.

The deals with Line One – an Internet service provider owned by BT and United – will give the stations’ viewers free Internet access with regional TV-linked material, including TV schedules, local news and gossip, through the station’s existing Websites.

Five e-mail addresses, 50Mb of Web space and 1.8 million pages of Internet content will also be supplied.

United Broadcasting & Entertainment, which manages United’s broadcasting and production interests, claims it is the first major terrestrial broadcaster to offer free Internet access for viewers.

UB&E chief operating officer John Cresswell says: “ITV broadcasters are powerful regional brands and Line One offers an attractive way to increase that brand value and enhance viewer loyalty.”

A UB&E spokesman adds: “Whatever may or may not happen with interactive TV, this enhances and increases the brand appeal of ITV stations.”

A £500,000 advertising campaign will run on the participating TV stations until June 27, flagging up the new service with the theme “Where I live is great”.

The ads display a freephone number which viewers can call for an Internet start-up guide and starter pack, which enables them to access the Internet immediately.

Line One will give UB&E a share of the revenues made from Internet access calls, and the two United companies will share the revenue from the online advertising on the joint home pages equally. Line One is to run the Internet help desk for users.

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