London -- British Sky Broadcasting will launch its digital,
direct-to-home satellite service in June, company officials said last week, putting an end
to speculation that the launch might be delayed until later in the year.
'Let me make it crystal-clear: We are on schedule and
on budget for launch,' said Sky's new CEO, Mark Booth, Feb. 3 at his first press
conference, which was called to announce the company's six-month financial results.
He predicted that 'a modest number of digital boxes will be in the stores in
In the days leading up to the press conference, investors
were nervous about another possible delay of the launch, which drove Sky's shares
down. However, Sky's shares recovered following Booth's comments, closing up
20.75 pence (34 cents) on the day at £3.6275 ($5.98).
Booth refused to give detailed plans for Sky's digital
launch in terms of pricing, channels, or marketing, other than to say, 'Analog will
look like yesterday' after Sky's digital bouquet is launched. Booth did say that
he expects digital simulcasts of the British Broadcasting Corp. U.K. terrestrial channels,
BBC 1 and 2, 'and probably channels 4 and 5,' to be in the bouquet.
Booth expects subscribers to top 7 million this year, up
from the current figure of 6.72 million.
Also on Feb. 3, Sky issued a writ against its former
partner, Carlton Communications, claiming that a payment of £30 million ($49.5 million)
is due from Carlton as its portion of an agreed settlement after Sky was forced last year
by regulators to exit the British Digital Broadcasting digital terrestrial TV consortium.
Booth said he hoped that Carlton 'would come to their senses.' If Carlton fails
to pay, 'we will go to court, but it's not the best way to build a
relationship,' Booth added.