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British Telcom’s vision is inside the box

British Telecom made its first splash in broadcast waters last month with the launch of next-gen service BT Vision. With two dedicated kids channels already available and another in the works, children's programming represents a big content mandate going forward.
January 1, 2007

British Telecom made its first splash in broadcast waters last month with the launch of next-gen service BT Vision. With two dedicated kids channels already available and another in the works, children’s programming represents a big content mandate going forward.

In addition to offering 40 free-to-air channels (one of which is CBBC) for free through its V-Box digital consoles, BT Vision’s subscription menu includes Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon thematic packages.

And playing to the pick-and-choose nature of VOD delivery, head of television Kate Dean is also looking to pick up individual shows from indie producers. Her latest acquisitions for this stream include Nelvana’s Babar, Max and Ruby and Maggie and the Ferocious Beast and HIT’s Kipper, Bob the Builder and Angelina Ballerina.

Dean is aiming to hit a kids target that spans from preschoolers to 12-year-olds, and she still has some room in her schedule and budget for a few more launch acquisitions. ‘I’m looking at about 400 hours, split between preschool and eight to 12,’ says Dean, adding that she has already bought up the rights to between 250 and 300 hours. ‘There is a need to ramp up, but I also want to retain a certain amount of flexibility so when a new brand becomes a hit, I can go ahead and secure it.’

Above and beyond the launch phase, Dean will begin buying for a refresh at the end of March, and she’s keen to exploit the technological capacity of the new V-boxes in order to reinforce BT Vision’s point of difference. ‘Any property that has interactivity woven through it will be particularly appealing to us,’ she says. Educational programming may also be on her buying radar for 2007 since preliminary talks about a third kids channel have centered on that theme.

British Telecom estimates that roughly 14 million households in the U.K. still haven’t made the jump into digital TV, citing an adversity to subscriptions as the reason why. In the short term, Dean says the company is hoping to crack two to three million of these tough nuts with fair, flexibile pricing and no mandatory subscriptions. It’s a concept that she calls ‘TV on their terms.’

For the service’s initial rollout in December, British Telecom seeded the market by giving away 50,000 free V-Boxes to broadband customers who pre-registered on its website. The boxes will eventually retail for around US$380, plus installation fee.

For US$12 a month, customers can subscribe to the full kids package, and US$1 will be the standard VOD rate for a half hour of children’s programming. GR

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at garyrusak@gmail.com

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