Carlton, Granada, and BSkyB form British Digital Broadcasting

31st January 1997

Carlton Communications PLC, Granada Group PLC and British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC announce the formation of a new joint company, British Digital Broadcasting PLC, which has today applied to operate three digital terrestrial television licences. Each shareholder will own one third of the new company.

British Digital Broadcasting brings together the leading forces in UK television production and broadcasting, including the BBC, with the world's leading satellite pay television operator.

Digital terrestrial television will offer multi-channel television to the three-quarters of UK homes that have not yet subscribed to satellite or cable. It will be received through existing television aerials and will only require a simple "plug in and watch" set top box.

When the services begin in the second half of next year, there will be six "multiplexes", each initially capable of carrying five television channels of high picture quality. BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 will use two and a half of the multiplexes between them to broadcast their existing services in digital form together with additional channels. The other three and a half multiplexes will be available for new channels and services and the award of licences will be made by the Independent Television Commission.

British Digital Broadcasting, with its applications for three multiplexes, intends to offer viewers 15 subscription television channels from Carlton, Granada, BSkyB and the BBC. The new subscription channels from the BBC will be a distinctive feature.

There will be three premium subscription channels, Sky Movies, The Movie Channel and Sky Sports, showing top Hollywood movies and the best of British sport.

The 12 channels in the basic subscription package will include original and library programmes from the BBC, Carlton, Granada and BSkyB on Carlton Select, Granada Plus, Sky1, BBC Horizon and BBC Showcase.

There will be entirely new channels such as Carlton Films, Granada Sports Club, Public Eye and Carlton Entertainment. Other channels will cover shopping (Granada TV Shopping), lifestyle (BBC Style and Granada Good Life) and music (BBC One TV).

British Digital Broadcasting's application explains that, if awarded three multiplexes, it will take the leading role in establishing and promoting digital terrestrial television. The company will:

  • create and market an attractive and competitively priced package of television channels;
  • ensure sufficient volumes of receiving equipment are available to consumers;
  • invest in a substantial marketing and promotion campaign; and
  • help build a digital transmission network.

If successful in being awarded three licences, the shareholders have agreed to meet, between them, a peak funding requirement of up to £300m with a margin for contingencies. The company is expected to be profitable within five years.

Michael Green and Nigel Walmsley from Carlton, Gerry Robinson and Charles Allen from Granada, and Sam Chisholm and David Chance from BSkyB have all been appointed as Directors of British Digital Broadcasting. Michael Green will be the first Chairman of the new company.

Michael Green, Chairman of British Digital Broadcasting, said:

"By plugging in one simple set top box, viewers will be able to see all the existing terrestrial channels, new free channels, the latest movies, the best sport, the highest quality drama as well as dedicated channels covering entertainment, food, lifestyle, music, shopping and news."
"Going digital is the most important development for British television since the introduction of colour. Within a few years, the public will be able to buy new digital television sets capable of receiving all digital services and one day, all television signals will be received in this way. By bringing together Britain's three most successful commercial broadcasters and the BBC, we can play a key role in bringing about this revolution."

Notes to Editors

The Independent Television Commission published an invitation to apply for digital terrestrial television licences on 31st October 1996. Applications had to be submitted to the Independent Television Commission before 12.00 pm on 31st January 1997. British Digital Broadcasting has applied for multiplexes B, C and D.

Carlton Communications is the UK's largest commercial terrestrial broadcaster, owning Carlton, Central and Westcountry Television. Carlton invests over £150m in original television programmes each year and has a library of over 5,500 hours of television programmes and films. Carlton is capitalised at £3bn and in the year to 30th September 1996, reported pre-tax profits of £295m on revenues of £1.7bn.

BSkyB is the world's leading satellite pay television operator with over six million subscribers. BSkyB is capitalised at £10bn and in the year to 30th June 1996, reported pre-tax profits of £257m on revenues of over £1bn.

Granada Group is the largest commercial programme maker in the UK producing over 3,000 hours of high quality programmes each year. Through its ownership of Granada Television and London Weekend Television, Granada is the country's most experienced commercial broadcaster. The Group is also a market leader in television retailing and in the sale of television subscription services. Granada is capitalised at £7.5bn and in the year to 30th September 1996, reported pre-tax profits of £480m on sales of £3.8bn.