REAL Digital set for September launch

Alternative pay-TV provider REAL Digital is looking to launch its service on September 1, following the release of its set-top box into the UK retail market in the summer of 2011.

David Henry, Managing Director of REAL Digital, told delegates at the Futuresource Entertainment Summit in London that the service would be transmitted from the current satellite positions currently used by BSkyB and Freesat, meaning that viewers already with dishes would only need a new box.

REAL Digital is sourcing its STBs from Fortec Star and Digital Stream. They will include advanced features such as a Conax encryption system, including chip pairing, which Henry admitted caused “many delays” to the project, but offered greater security, as the code was in the centre of the box. An Ethernet connection is also specified, “which potentially opens up to all sorts of catch-up players and interactivity,” he said. “Test transmissions are ready to start in about four weeks time,” he revealed. “We’re still working with two manufacturers of software and in talks with many of the broadcasters.”

According to Henry, “channels are more important than the features,” with the REAL Digital proposition based around the channels a customer would get upon buying the box and plugging it in. Key elements of the channel line-up are Sky Sports 1 and 2. In November 2010, REAL Digital won the right to be included as a wholesale distributor of Sky Sports 1 and 2, on a similar basis to that which allows BT, Virgin and TopUp TV to retail the channels. “We believe it’s an important differential for REAL Digital,” he said.

Three packages will be offered: a basic free package, covering all the free-to-air channels and a mini-pay package later on. “Sky Sports 1 and 2 is a separate issue, and we’re keeping the price of that under wraps at the moment, but we believe it will be the most competitive in the market place. We’ll be launching on September 1st, and product will probably turn up in major retail stores in the next few weeks for demonstration,” he concluded.

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