On the 1st November 1999, nearly one year after launching, ONdigital announced a new method for customers to subscribe, by pre-paying for a years subscription. This enabled subscriptions, with all the required equipment to be sold at an increasing variety of outlets, including supermarkets.
On the 25th April 2001, ONdigital announced that Carlton and Granada were to "align" ITV and ONdigital. Stuart Prebble (managing director of ONdigital) would be appointed Chief Executive of ITV, and ONdigital would re-brand on the 11th July to become ITV Digital.
The following text is taken from an ONdigital media information sheet.
ONdigital in brief
A short history of ONdigital
The Company was started as British Digital Broadcasting (BDB) in a joint venture between Carlton, Granada and BSkyB. Following an ITC ruling in 1997, BSkyB left the company, but remained committed to providing programming. On 19 December 1997, BDB was granted licences to be the commercial digital terrestrial broadcaster on three multiplexes, by the Independent Television Commission (ITC).
BDB launched its new brand name, ONdigital on 28 July 1998, announced its programme and pricing line-up on 28 September 1998 and started its service on 15 November 1998, less than 11 months after its licences were granted. BSkyB, by comparison, took 2 years. By the end of March 1999 ONdigital had 110,00 subscribers; by the end of June 1999, 247,000.
ONdigital offers the simplest way to receive digital TV. It is received through a conventional TV aerial (roof top or even set-top). It requires no dish and no cable and offers its customers simple plug and play technology, with no contractual requirement to connect to a telephone line. In addition, ONdigital offers customers, uniquely, the opportunity to select their own channels and, if they wish, to change some or all of them monthly, at no charge. A set top box is supplied free to all subscribers; ONdigital is also working with integrated digital TV manufacturers and electrical retailers to bring down the cost of idTVs.
ONdigital offers 15 primary channels and five premium channels; Subscriptions start with a minimal package at £6.99, in which, in addition to the free-to-air services already received, customers can pick one primary channel. For £9.99 a month, subscribers get all the primary channels for three months following which they can make their own choice of 6 primary channels and stay at the same subscription, or keep all the primary channels for £11.99 a month. Premium channels are charged in addition to primary channels: any one Sky channel costs £11 a month; any two Sky channels cost £15 a month; all three Sky channels cost £18 a month. Film Four costs £5.99 a month. UEFA Champions League comes free with six or more primary channels, for the first year. There is no connection charge but if an aerial upgrade is required there is a £40 charge.
At launch, digital terrestrial TV was transmitted through 22 transmitters throughout the UK, bringing the service to up to 70% of customers. By late 1999 or early 2000 this will have risen to 81, raising the coverage to 90% or more. Every prospective ONdigital customer has their postcode checked to establish the level of service they will receive.
The following channels can be received through digital terrestrial TV receivers:
- Free-to-air: ITV, ITV2, Channel 4, Channel 5, BBC ONE, BBC TWO, BBC Choice, BBC News 24. (BBC Knowledge, Digital Teletext and BBC text will follow shortly); The Parliament Channel (audio only)
- Primary: UK Gold, UK Play, UK Style/UK Horizons, Carlton Kids/Carlton World, Carlton Cinema, Carlton Select/Carlton Food Network, Granada Breeze/Granada Men and Motors, Granada Plus, Shop!, The Cartoon Network, Eurosport, Sky One, First ONdigital, Games channel, MTV
- Premium: Sky Premier, Sky Movie Max, Sky Sportsl, Sky Sports 3, FilmFour
The channels are allocated to the following multiplexes:
- B: Sky One, Cartoon Network, Carlton Cinema, Eurosport, Sky Sports 1, Sky Premier
- C: Granada Plus, Granada Breeze/Men and Motors, UK Gold, Sky Sports 3, Sky MovieMax, First ONdigital, MTV
- D: Carlton Kids/World, Carlton Select/Food Network, Shop!, UK Play, UK Style/Horizons; Champions on 99
The channels are allocated the following numbers on the system and are easy to find and move between using the remote control. ONdigital's unique on-screen guide is simple and easy to use.
- Free-to-view services channel numbers
- 1: BBC ONE
- 2: BBC TWO
- 3: ITV
- 4: Channel 4
- 5: Channel 5
- 6: ITV2
- 7: BBC CHOICE
- 8: S4C (where available)
- 9: Teletext
- 10: BBC Text
- 11: BBC NEWS 24
- 12: Parliament Channel (audio only)
- 13: BBC Knowledge
- Subscription services channel numbers
- 20: ONdigital information
- 21: Sky Sports 1
- 22: Sky Premier
- 23: Sky Sports 3
- 24: Sky MovieMax
- 26: Sky One
- 27: Cartoon Network
- 28: Carlton Cinema
- 29: Eurosport
- 30: Granada Plus
- 31: Granada Breeze/Men and Motors
- 32: UK Gold
- 33: MTV
- 34: Carlton Kids/World
- 35: Carlton Food Network/Select
- 36: Shop!
- 37: UK Play
- 38: UK Style/Horizons
- 41: FilmFour
- 45: Games channel
- 99: Champions on 99
The customer service centre
The main ONdigital customer service centre is based in Plymouth, with additional support in Belfast and Cork. It provides the main point of contact with ONdigital customers for taking out subscriptions, enabling their smartcards, updating or changing their channel line up and handling any questions from customers, no matter how simple.
ONdigital plans to add more channels including Sky Sports 2. Internet email will be added during 1999, with home shopping and banking following early in 2000.