Telewest today announced a 20millionGBP investment in Teleport, an intended rival to the Sky Plus service with almost all the same advantages of being able to pause record and rewind live TV while watching from any part of the programme, not just the start. The trial begins for 26,000 subscribers in the Cheltenham and Gloucester area as of today, and once the pilot is completed, it is expected to be rolled out to 1million customers in total early next year.
It follows another similar film-on-demand trial which Telewest limited to a single town (lucky Bristol), and it makes sense not to roll out with a national service which may fail, even if some may view the chosen test area with envy if everyone else has to wait six months. There's no change to existing equipment to access the service and, adding another layer on top of BBC3, soaps like Eastenders will be offered on a second-chance basis - miss it one week and it can be seen the next week (although it was unconfirmed at the time of announcement, whether you could have the whole omnibus). If Telewest customers are already buying the top-level existing packages, then certain add-ins from Teleport could be offered as free sweetners to begin with.
Telewest Broadband has already secured content from the likes of Filmflex, the BBC, Flextech, Discovery Networks Europe, National Geographic Channel Europe, Nickelodeon, Jetix (the new name for Fox Kids) and Playboy TV.
In particular, the BBC agreement will initially provide over 180 hours of documentaries, natural history, drama, light entertainment and children's programmes and bring back in much-needed revenue for the corporation at a time when the licence fee's existence only has nine years left in its current form, and the Government is expecting Auntie Beeb to be more commercial and generate more of its own revenue. The deal with Telewest is mutually beneficial in targeting the digital converts ahead of any analog switch-off in the next decade. With Freeview boxes dropping to £35 on the street though, there's still competition both with people who only ever want to pay once, and with the kind of BT/Microsoft IPTV offerings promised in the future. If Telewest makes use of its cable broadband subscriber base for the new service, then it should have the desired effect of keeping customers captive.
Unfortunately, none of the cable/satellite providers can give you any more free time to watch all that great television.