1997 May

1997 May 7

BSkyB, BT, Midland Bank (now HSBC), and Matsushita Electric (Panasonic) announce the formation of British Interactive Broadcasting, holding a 32.5%, 32.5%, 20%, and 15% stake each respectively. It was anticipated that the collaboration would provide development of interactive services and subsidies to allow receivers to be purchased for under £200.

BIB will provide the interactive television platform that will enable leading High Street businesses to offer interactive services, including home shopping, banking, and travel and holiday services. The BIB platform will also have the capability to offer educational programmes and specialist local community and national public information services. Through their TV, customers will also be able to connect to an Internet service which will include an E-mail capability. All these services will be available through the same digital satellite set top box that gives access to TV broadcasts connected to an ordinary telephone line.

Over the past twelve months, BIB has formed a working group involving household names, such as Sainsbury, HMV, Thomas Cook, Great Universal Stores and Dorling Kindersley to develop content for digital interactive services. It is anticipated that, subject to regulatory approvals, BIB’s services will be available to digital satellite TV subscribers from the summer of 1998 following the launch of BSkyB’s digital broadcast service next spring.

The press release also discloses that BSkyB have placed orders for one million Sky Digital receivers. The sources of these set top boxes were not specified, although it would be logical to suspect that with Matsushita being directly involved they would primarily have been Panasonic boxes. Given the immediate availability of Pace receivers at launch and the later launch of Panasonic boxes, however, Pace (perhaps also Grundig and Amstrad) may have already been primary manufacturers at this time.

In terms of back-end equipment, BSkyB state that NDS and DEC will be providing hardware for video and data compression and multiplexing, with the database, authentication, and payment systems handled by DEC Alpha hardware and Oracle’s “Network Computing Architecture”.

http://www.sky.co.uk/about/release.htm (via Wayback Machine)
http://www.sky.co.uk/about/technol.htm (via Wayback Machine)

1997 September

1997 September 3

A sat-uk mailing list message is posted briefly mentioning the availability of Sky News being broadcast in digital on Astra 1D in a slot previously carrying Astra Vision.

As some of you may have noticed, the AstraVision promotional on Astra 1D
transponder 57 has ceased. However, to a lot of people, what has
replaced it is unclear. It is, in fact, Sky News (!), but in digital
form. Sky News is broadcasting in MPEG-2/clear, with the parameters
SR20000, FEC3/4, and the PIDs V0200-A0280. All those with Nokia
Mediamasters will be able to catch it.


1997 October

1997 October 1

A sat-uk mailing list message suggests that Manchester United TV will air on Sky Digital and cable.

English Football Club Manchester United will launch a television
channel with British Sky Broadcasting and Granada Media Group to take
advantage of the team’s rapid commercial growth. The pay channel will
launch in autumn 1998 on new digital cable and satellite offerings.
“MUTV” will broadcast in Britain for six hours a day but will not show
Premier League action, since rights for that coverage have been sold to
BSkyB under a deal through 2001. The channel will show “friendlies”
games, classic matches from the past, reserve team games and interviews
with players.


1997 October 10

A sat-uk mailing list message briefly mentions that Sky News is once again transmitting in digital form:

Sky News has returned once again in digital format on Astra 1D,
transponder 57. The parameters for all those with the corect equipment
are SR 19996, FEC 3/4, VPID 0200, APID 0280. Presumably, these are
simply more tests, like before, for the forthcoming digital package on
Astra 2 at 28,2 degrees east.


1997 October 12

A sat-digital-uk mailing list message is posted containing the following:

Satellite -mainly 28 deg East ,ISTR.
Receiver is a “custom” to Sky’s own spec. It will be basically DVB
compatible but will NOT use a PCMCIA-based CAM module.
The encryption system will not be the same as any of the current
European ones (Conax,Irdeto,Seca etc). so you won’t be able to
use a valid smartcard along with a “non made-for-Sky” box like
the Nokia models.
After pressure from Oftel, it appears the Sky box *will* now pick up
free-to-air DVB transmissions using standard formats like SR of
27,500 & FEC of 3/4.
The modem will be higher speed than the usual (slowish) ones
found in current Digital Boxes.By the 2nd generation of Sky’s
boxes ,they hope to use V34 (up to 33K6 bps).
How long the analogue will continue is anybody’s guess!
Depends partly on take up of the system form the public.
For the dig. Terrestrial TV service (BDB) ,the Beeb said last week
that they’d like a phase out of all analog transmissions within 10
years -but I can’t see the UK public warming to that idea when it
took 20 odd years to banish 405line transmissions (at great cost
to the broadcasters).
My guess is 5 more years of analogue Sky transmissions due to
slow takeup or switchover by existing subscribers but I can only
guess what inducements Murdoch will come up with!!


When, where, or how this information was obtained is unknown but its accuracy indicates some degree of prior knowledge.