BT Launches Vision IPTV

Britain's BT Group Monday commercially launched BT Vision, a TV and entertainment service that provides 40 linear channels and video-on-demand content over a broadband IP connection.

The telco said it will start to fulfill orders from those existing BT Total Broadband customers who order the service in mid-December. The company added that it aims to have 2 million-3 million BT Vision customers "in the medium term."

BT Vision's channel lineup includes several British Broadcasting Corp. channels, Sky News, Disney's ABC1, QVC and UKTV History.

BT Vision uses Microsoft’s TV IPTV Edition software and Philips Consumer Electronics' set-top boxes, which provide 80 hours of digital-video-recording capability, two tuners, a smart-card reader and support for HDTV.

In the United States, AT&T and Verizon Communications are using Microsoft’s software to provide TV services.

Also Monday, the telco announced that it reached an agreement with Warner Bros. Entertainment to sell or rent downloads of some the studio's movies to BT Vision subscribers, including Superman Returns, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and the Harry Potter series. BT already has similar agreements with NBC Universal and SonyBMG.

In the summer of 2007, BT expects to launch a new sports tier. Through a deal with Setanta Sports, BT Vision Sport will provide access to 46 live F.A. Premier League soccer games and 60 live games from the Scottish Premier League, among other content.

BT is taking on NTL, the largest cable operator in the United Kingdom, with about 3.3 million video customers. NTL earlier this year bought No. 2 U.K cable operatorTelewest Global, and it is currently attempting to buy broadcaster ITV with a bid worth $8.9 billion.