ITV Digital

ITV Digital
ITV Digital Ltd
(formerly ONdigital Ltd)
Former type Carlton Communications plc and Granada plc joint venture
Industry Media
Fate Formal broadcasting of replacement Freeview service begins
Founded 1998
Defunct 2002
Headquarters Marco Polo House, Battersea, London, United Kingdom
Products Pay TV services and programming
ONdigital logo (1998 - 2001)

ITV Digital was a British digital terrestrial television broadcaster, which launched a pay-TV service on the world's first digital terrestrial television network as ONdigital in 1998 and briefly re-branded as ITV Digital in July 2001, before the service ceased in May 2002. Its main shareholders were Carlton Communications and Granada plc. It was particularly noted for its failure to break into the digital television market.

ONdigital Viewing Card

Contents

History

Digital terrestrial television (DTT) started in the UK in 1998. Six multiplexes were set up, with three of them allocated to the existing analogue broadcasters. The other three multiplexes were auctioned off. A consortium of Carlton Television, Granada Television and British Sky Broadcasting won the auction as British Digital Broadcasting (BDB). The brand ONdigital was adopted for launch. BSkyB was forced by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) to withdraw from the consortium on competition grounds; this effectively placed Sky in direct competition with the newly launched service (although BSkyB was still forced to provide key channels such as Sky Movies and Sky Sports to the service). In all ONdigital was given one year from winning the licence to launching the world's first DTT service. In addition to launching audio and video services they also led the specification of an industry-wide advanced interactive engine (based on MHEG-5). This was an open standard that was then used by all broadcasters on DTT.

The new digital broadcaster was launched on 15 November 1998, with a lineup of 18 channels, including many channels developed in-house by Carlton and Granada.[1] On 7 March 2000, Onmail was launched,[2] followed closely on 18 September 2000, by ONdigital launching an Internet television service, ONnet,[3] and in the same year a deal with multiplex operator SDN led to the launch of pay-per-view service ONrequest.

From the launch date, however, the service was quickly losing money. Aggressive marketing by BSkyB for their own digital service, Sky Digital, made the ONdigital offer look unattractive. The new digital satellite service provided a dish, Digibox, installation and around 200 channels for £159, a lower price than ONdigital at £199. ONdigital's subscription pricing had been set to compare with the older Sky analogue service of 20 channels. ONdigital also failed to realise that Sky had cast off its downmarket image and believed there was considerable public antipathy towards Sky (and Rupert Murdoch); but this appeared to matter much less than they had hoped.[citation needed]

The ONdigital management team hoped to obtain the upper hand by a series of 'free set top box' promotions (initially at retailers such as Currys and Dixons) when ONdigital receiving equipment was purchased at the same time as a television set or similarly priced piece of equipment. These offers eventually became permanent, with the set-top box 'loaned' to the customer at no charge for as long as they continued to subscribe to ONdigital. The offer was swiftly matched by Sky.

British Digital Broadcasting logo (1997–1998)

Additional problems for ONdigital were caused by the choice of 64QAM broadcast mode, coupled with far weaker than expected broadcast power, (meaning that the signal was weak in many areas), a complex pricing structure (comprising many menu options), a poor quality subscriber management system (badly adapted from Canal+), a paper magazine TV guide whereas BSkyB had provided an electronic programme guide (EPG), insufficient technical customer services, and much signal piracy. While there was a limited return path provided via an in-built 2400 baud modem, there was no requirement (as with BSkyB) to connect the set-top box's modem to a phone line.

Later problems occurred when ONdigital began to sell 'ONprepaid', a set-top box bundle sold in high street stores and supermarkets at a price that included - in theory - the set-top box on loan and the first year's subscription package. Thousands of these packages were also sold at well below retail price on auction sites such as the then-popular QXL. As the call to activate the viewing card did not require any bank details, many ONdigital boxes which were technically on loan were at unverifiable addresses. This was later changed so a customer could not walk away with a box without ONdigital verifying their address. Many customers did not activate the viewing card at all, although where the viewer's address was known, ONdigital would write informing them that they must activate before a certain deadline.[citation needed]

Additionally, the OnDigital pay-per-view channels were encrypted using a system - SECA MediaGuard - which had previously been cracked in Europe. This meant that it was very easy for people to produce and sell counterfeit subscription cards which would give access to all the channels.[4] In 2002, Canal+ accused News Corp of extracting the UserROM code from the MediaGuard cards and leaking it onto the internet.[5] According to The Guardian, News Corp, with the help of NDS, had been working on breaking the MediaGuard smartcards used by Canal+, ITV Digital and other non-Murdoch-owned TV companies throughout Europe. Canal+ brought a lawsuit against News Corp. but later dropped the action. News Corporation agreed to buy Canal Plus's struggling Italian operation Telepiu. [6][7] In 2008, News Corp. was cleared of other charges, and paid one thousand five hundred dollars in damages.[8]

Finally, Carlton and Granada had chosen not to employ ONdigital management and staff directly, so many people were on short-term contracts and key people left with no notice.

Rebranding

In desperation at the churn rate, Carlton and Granada turned to their most valuable asset - the ITV brand - and on 11 July 2001 rebranded ONdigital as ITV Digital.[9] They also (in a very expensive deal) purchased the TV rights to the Football League and launched the ITV Sport Channel. A massive re-branding campaign was launched to support the new naming, with customers even being sent ITV Digital stickers to place over the existing ONdigital logos on their remote controls and set top boxes. The software running on the receivers was never changed though, and always displayed 'ON' on nearly every screen.[10] A plan to change the onscreen software was planned along with a change to a stronger encryption system in Autumn 2002 however this of course never arose due to liquidation. The rebrand was not without controversy as SMG plc (owner of Scottish Television and Grampian Television), UTV and Channel Television all pointed out that the ITV brand did not belong solely to Carlton and Granada. SMG and UTV initially refused to carry the advertising campaign for ITV Digital and did not allow the ITV Sports Channel space on their Multiplex, meaning that it was not available at launch in most of Scotland and Northern Ireland. The case was resolved in Scotland,[11] and the Channel Islands and later still in Northern Ireland, allowing the ITV Sport Channel to launch in the non-Carlton and Granada regions (although it was never made available in the Channel Islands, as the islands do not have DTT or Cable and it never appeared on Sky Digital).

Monkey

ITV Digital also ran a famous advertising campaign involving the comedian Johnny Vegas and a knitted monkey (voiced by Ben Miller). A replica knitted monkey could be obtained by signing up to ITV Digital. Because the monkey could not be obtained without signing up to the service, a popular market for second-hand monkeys developed. At one time original ITV Digital Monkeys were fetching several hundred pounds on eBay,[12] and even knitting patterns delivered by email were sold for several pounds. In early 2007 the knitted monkey and Johnny Vegas reappeared in an advert for PG Tips tea, which included a reference to ITV Digital's downfall.

Administration and Freeview

These changes failed to revive the broadcaster. Indeed, the cost of the Football League deal proved one too many a burden for ITV Digital, and it was placed into administration on 27 March 2002, after the League refused to accept a £130m pay cut in its £315m deal with the ITV Sport Channel. Most subscription channels ceased broadcasting on ITV Digital on 1 May 2002. The collapse caused severe financial difficulties for lower-division football clubs who had budgeted for large incomes from the television contract. The Football League sued ITV Digital's parent companies, Carlton and Granada, claiming that the firms had breached their contract in failing to deliver the guaranteed income. The League lost the case, with the judge ruling that it had "failed to extract sufficient written guarantees". The League then filed a negligence claim against its lawyers for failing to press for a written guarantee at the time of the deal with ITV Digital. This time it was awarded a paltry £4 in damages of the £150m it was seeking.[13]

A consortium made up of the BBC, BSkyB and Crown Castle International was granted ITV Digital's old broadcasting licence, and launched the Freeview service on 30 October 2002, offering 30 free-to-air TV channels and 20 free-to-air radio channels including several interactive channels such as BBCi and Teletext but no subscription or premium services. Those followed on March 31, 2004 when Top Up TV began broadcasting eleven pay TV channels in timeshared broadcast slots.

During 2002, ITV Digital's liquidators started to ask customers to return set top boxes or pay a £39.99 fee. This deteriorated from a request to a plea, with one liquidator's representative speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC 97.3 to justify why they wanted the money, but when asked 'How are you going to force people to return these boxes, are you going to employ collection agencies?' the response was a feeble 'Please, I just want them back'. Had the move been successful, this could have threatened to undermine the fledgling Freeview service, since at the time most digital terrestrial receivers were former ONdigital and ITV Digital units. Carlton and Granada stepped in and paid £2.8m to have the boxes stay with their customers, as at the time the ITV companies received a discount on their licence payments based on the number of digital homes they had converted. Second hand ONdigital receivers are widely available from sources such as eBay and were fully compatible with the successor Freeview system (and also with Top Up TV). They do have some drawbacks however: they are slower than more modern boxes with faster processors (ONdigital receivers often take several seconds to change channel for example) and lack support for the full Freeview Electronic Programme Guide, as this feature was introduced well after the ONdigital receiver software was written. The receiver software can also be buggy, causing the boxes lock up and refuse to respond to keypresses on the remote control. In addition, the set top boxes do not support the '8k' transmission mode which is being introduced across the UK following 'digital switchover' in each region.

Following the administration in 2002, the three multiplexes that were run by ITV Digital remained blank until a week or so before Freeview's launch. However, E4 and FilmFour continued broadcasting for over two weeks after the shutdown. Strangely however, E4 carried subtitles until the placeholder was deleted in September 2002. Most of the original ITV Digital channel placeholders and Logical Channel Numbers were kept until Freeview's replaced them, leaving large gaps between channels.

ITV Digital operated out of Marco Polo House, the south London building home to shopping channel QVC and which had once housed The Observer newspaper, but perhaps most famous as the lavish headquarters of the ill-fated British Satellite Broadcasting. ITV Digital had call centres located in Pembroke Dock, Plymouth and used outsourced BT call centres in Cork, Republic of Ireland and Belfast, Northern Ireland.

List of channels

This was the list of channels just before the service ceased transmission. It also features channels that closed before the date.

Key

Encryption/package Notes
Free-to-air Does not require a monthly subscription.
Subscription channel Requires a monthly subscription to view the channel.
Pay-per-view Requires a payment for each event that is viewed.

List

EPG No. Channel name Owner Notes Encryption/package
1 BBC One BBC Some regional variations in programming. Free-to-air
2 BBC Two BBC Some regional variations in programming; variations from analogue in Wales and Northern Ireland. Free-to-air
3 ITV ITV Network Limited Made up of 15 regional stations. Branded mainly ITV, Channel Television, Grampian TV, Scottish TV or UTV, depending on regional station. Free-to-air
4 Channel 4/S4C Channel Four Television Corporation/Welsh Fourth Channel Authority Channel 4 is on channel 8 when viewed in Wales. Free-to-air
5 Channel 5 RTL Group Free-to-air
6 ITV2 ITV Digital Channels Ltd Originally called S2 in Scotland and UTV2 in Northern Ireland until both names were discontinued. Free-to-air
7 BBC Choice BBC Later rebranded as BBC Three. Broadcasts only between 19:00 and 07:00. Free-to-air
8 TeleG SDN Ltd Not available outside Scotland. Free-to-air
9 Teletext Teletext Ltd Free-to-air
10 BBC Four BBC Was on Channel 13 when originally named BBC Knowledge. Broadcasts only between 19:00 and 06:00. Free-to-air
11 BBC News 24 BBC Free-to-air
12 CBBC BBC Broadcasts only between 07:00 and 19:00. Free-to-air
13 CBeebies BBC Broadcasts only between 06:00 and 19:00. Free-to-air
15 NTL Interactive NTL Interactive TV guide operated by NTL (eventually closed). Free-to-air
16 No Channel ITV Digital Channels Ltd Was ITV Text + before it closed in February 2002. Free-to-air
17 BBCi BBC Launched as BBC Text, was originally on Channel 10. Free-to-air
18 S4C2 Welsh Fourth Channel Authority Not available outside Wales. Broadcasts only between 09:00 and 18:00 on Tuesdays to Thursdays. Free-to-air
19 QVC QVC Originally used by Shop! until it closed. Free-to-air
20 ITV Sport Channel ITV Digital Channels Ltd Was a subscription channel until 1 May 2002. Closed down on 12 May 2002. Free-to-air
21 Sky Sports 1 BSkyB Subscription channel
22 Sky Sports 2 BSkyB Initially did not launch on the service until 1999, unlike 1 and 3. Subscription channel
23 Sky Sports 3 BSkyB Subscription channel
24 Sky Movies Max 1 BSkyB Subscription channel
25 Sky Movies Premier 1 BSkyB Subscription channel
26 Sky One BSkyB Subscription channel
27 Cartoon Network Turner Broadcasting System Europe Subscription channel
28 Carlton Cinema/ONsport 2 ITV Digital Channels Ltd ONsport 2 only broadcasts during Tuesday nights. Carlton Cinema uses the slot the rest of the time. Subscription channel
29 British Eurosport TF1 Group Subscription channel
30 Granada Plus ITV Digital Channels Ltd Subscription channel
31 Men & Motors ITV Digital Channels Ltd Originally timeshared with Granada Breeze until it closed. Subscription channel
32 UK Gold UKTV Subscription channel
33 MTV MTV Networks Europe Subscription channel
35 ITV Digital Preview ITV Digital Channels Ltd Originally timeshared by Carlton Select and Carlton Food Network. Free-to-air
36 Discovery Channel Discovery Networks Western Europe Originally a timeshare of Discovery Kids and Discovery Wings. Both channels were replaced by Discovery Channel on 18 November 2001. Subscription channel
37 Play UK UKTV Launched as UK Play. Subscription channel
38 UK Style UKTV Initially timeshared with UK Horizons. Subscription channel
39 Nickelodeon/Paramount Comedy Channel MTV Networks Europe Nickelodeon broadcasts only between 06:00 and 19:00 with Comedy Central broadcasting during Nickelodeon's downtime. Subscription channel
41 FilmFour Channel Four Television Corporation Did not close down until 24 May 2002. Subscription channel
42 E4 Channel Four Television Corporation Did not close down until 24 May 2002. Subscription channel
43 UK Horizons UKTV Channel 43 was originally Simply Money before it closed. Subscription channel
44 TV Travel Shop TV Travel Shop Subscription channel
45 BBC Parliament BBC Was originally on channel 12. Audio channel only. Free-to-air
46 No channel N/A Two Way TV was originally on this channel before it closed on 31 December 2001. Subscription channel
47 ITV Select Previews ITV Digital Channels Ltd Wellbeing was originally on Channel 47 before it closed on 31 December 2001. Free-to-air
48 ITN News Channel ITV Digital Channels Ltd Later known as the ITV News Channel. Free-to-air
50 ITV Select Information ITV Digital Channels Ltd Free-to-air
56 No channel N/A Used by For Adults Only 1 until it closed. Pay-per-view
57 No channel N/A Used by For Adults Only 2 until it closed. Pay-per-view
88 ITV Digital Information ITV Digital Channels Ltd Free-to-air
90 The Adult Channel Pay-per-view
91 Television X Did not close down until 18 May 2002. Pay-per-view
98 ITV Sport Select ITV Digital Channels Ltd Ceased transmission prior to service collapse, was used solely for Premier League football. Pay-per-view
99 ITV Sport Plus ITV Digital Channels Ltd Ceased transmission prior to service collapse, previously known as ONsport 1, showing Champions League and ATP Masters Series. Pay-per-view

Set top boxes

This is a list of ex-ITV and ONdigital set-top boxes. The boxes are generally more cumbersome than more modern offerings, and MHEG services run noticeably slower. All boxes used similar software, in that a unified interface and design was used between all models. Top Up TV provided the most recent update in 2004 which upgraded minor technicalities with encryption services.

  • Nokia Mediamaster 9850T
  • Pace Micro Technology DTR-730, DTR-735
  • Philips DTX 6370, DTX 6371, DTX 6372
  • Pioneer DBR-T200, DBR-T210
  • Sony VTX-D500U
  • Toshiba DTB2000

iDTVs

ONdigital and ITVdigital could also be received with an Integrated Digitial Television (iDTV) receiver. They used a Conditional Access Module (CAM) with a smart card, plugged in to a DVB Common Interface slot in the back of the set.

Purchasers of iDTVs were given a substantially discounted price on using the ONdigital service, as there was no cost for a set-top box.

Some of the original iDTVs needed firmware upgrades to work with the CAM. For example, Sony sent technicians out to homes to make the necessary updates free of charge.

Carlton/Granada Digital Television Channels

Carlton and Granada (later ITV Digital Channels Ltd) created a selection of channels, which formed some of the core content of channels available via the service, which were:

Channel name Year removed Reason/Notes
Carlton Kids 2000 Was timeshared with Carlton World. Replaced by a timeshare of Discovery Kids and Discovery Wings.
Carlton Select 2000
Carlton World 2000 Was timeshared with Carlton Kids. Replaced by a timeshare of Discovery Kids and Discovery Wings.
First ONdigital 2000
ONsport 1 2001 Replaced by ITV Sport Channel, ITV Sport Extra and ITV Sport Select.
ONsport 2 2001 Replaced by ITV Sport Channel, ITV Sport Extra and ITV Sport Select.
TASTE CFN 2001 Known as Carlton Food Network until 1 May 2001.
Granada Breeze 2002 Known as Granada Good Life until 1 May 1998.
ITV Select 2002 Known as ONrequest until 22 August 2001.
ITV Sport Channel 2002
ITV Sport Extra 2002
ITV Sport Select 2002
Shop! 2002 Joint venture between Granada and Littlewoods.
Wellbeing 2002 Joint venture between Granada and Boots.
Carlton Cinema 2003 Failed to guarantee carriage on Sky.
Plus 2004 Known as Granada Plus until early 2000s. Closed due to poor viewership and replaced by ITV3.
ITV News Channel 2005 Known as ITN News Channel until after the collapse of ITV Digital.
Men & Motors 2010 Known as Granada Men & Motors until early 2000s.
ITV2 N/A Still broadcasting.

Timeline of events

British Digital Broadcasting logo
  • 1997
    • 25 June 1997 - The Independent Television Commission (ITC) award the sole DTT broadcast licence to British Digital Broadcasting
    • 20 December 1997 - The ITC award the three pay-TV digital multiplex licences to BDB
  • 1998
    • 29 July 1998 - BDB rebrand as ONdigital
    • 15 November 1998 - Formal broadcasting begins
  • 2000
    • 1 May 2000 - Formal broadcasting of pay-per-view (PPV) service ONrequest begins
  • 2001
    • 11 July 2001 - ONdigital rebrand as ITV Digital
    • 22 August 2001 - PPV service ONrequest rebrands as ITV Select
  • 2002
    • 27 March 2002 - ITV Digital placed into administration
    • 1 May 2002 - Pay-TV operations cease
    • 30 October 2002 - Formal broadcasting of replacement Freeview service begins

See also

References

  1. ^ "ONdigital Announces Channel Packages And Launch Date". MediaTel. 28 September 1998. http://www.mediatel.co.uk/newsline/1998/09sep/28/ondig.htm. 
  2. ^ "ONDIGITAL ON COURSE FOR 1 MILLION CUSTOMERS". PR Newswire. http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=53031. 
  3. ^ "ONnet Hits The Streets With More Than 40 Brands On Board". Service Engineers Forum. 18 September 2000. http://www.e-repair.co.uk/story36.htm. 
  4. ^ "Tempting the digital refuseniks". BBC News. 19 March 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/1879859.stm. 
  5. ^ Cassy, John; Paul Murphy (2002-03-13). "How codebreakers cracked the secrets of the smart card". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2002/mar/13/media.citynews. Retrieved 2008-02-25. 
  6. ^ "Vivendi settles row with NDS". The Guardian. 2003-05-02. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2003/may/02/5. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  7. ^ Tryhorn, Chris (2002-04-30). "Murdoch lines up Sky Italia". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2003/apr/30/broadcasting.rupertmurdoch. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  8. ^ "EchoStar Wins Battle, Loses War In News Corp. Piracy Case". Multichannel News. http://www.multichannel.com/article/CA6561344.html. Retrieved 2008-06-21. 
  9. ^ "Ondigital relaunches as ITV Digital". BBC News. 11 July 2001. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/new_media/1433671.stm. 
  10. ^ "YouTube Video of ITV Digital DPG displaying ONDigital Logo on ITV Digital branded channel". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-fSTgFXblE#t=1m48s. 
  11. ^ "ITV Digital gets support from SMG". Sport Business. 28 September 2001. http://www.sportbusiness.com/news/101067/itv-digital-gets-support-from-smg. 
  12. ^ ITV Monkey funds TV shopping start-up silicon.com, 11 July 2002
  13. ^ "Football League loses damages bid". BBC News. 23 June 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5109254.stm. 

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