BSkyB’s digital blitz targets 3m

British Sky Broadcasting is preparing one of the UK’s most ambitious marketing strategies to date – to persuade 3 million satellite viewers to buy new digital decoders.

The broadcaster opens a digital subscriber management centre in Dunfermline, Scotland in September. By then, a marketing team will be in place and the hunt underway for an agency to handle the digital strategy.

BSkyB plans to introduce 150 new channels when it starts digital transmissions through the Astra satellite in summer 1996.

Digital broadcasting will increase tenfold the current capacity for satellite channels.

New channels will include a video-on-demand concept involving the staggered transmission of existing channels and premium services such as pay through view events.

But existing non-digital channels will continue to be broadcast as long as existing decoders remain in the market, suggest cable and satellite sources.

The restructuring of BSkyB’s subscriber marketing department last month resulted in the promotion of customer marketing director Chris Townsend to marketing director, digital TV (MW April 7).

Townsend is now developing a marketing push to persuade existing Sky households to trade in their old equipment and promote the new digital channels.

He will have to create an exciting consumer offer. Sources predict it is likely the first digital decoders, due next spring, will be subsidised to keep retail prices low. First marketing activities are expected early next year.

However, although BSkyB’s digital TV plans are acknowledged to be “miles ahead” of other broadcasters, Rupert Murdoch is not expected to launch new services until European-wide standards are finally agreed.

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