Kingston Interactive Television to Cease Operations

--Service Pioneered IPTV, VOD in the UK

Kitinteractivetelevision2006 Kingston Interactive Television (KIT), the pioneering ADSL-based IPTV service that UK regional telco, Kingston Communications, operates in and around the northeastern English city of Hull (note: for many years, KIT, which launched in 2000, was one of only two pay-TV services in the UK to offer VOD--the other being Video Networks' HomeChoice service), will cease operations April 3rd. A statement emailed to [itvt] by Kingston Communications read: "After careful consideration we have decided to close the KIT Digital TV service that we offer in East Yorkshire. The service will close from Monday 3 April 2006. Without the benefits of scale, further investment in the KIT service would not be cost-effective, and due to anticipated increased competition in the digital TV market, it is not viable to continue the service as it currently exists. We have written to all of our KIT customers to provide them with more information about the closure and about alternative options for receiving digital TV. We remain fully committed to developing and investing in our broadband customer base and the services we offer them."

At one point, KIT had around 10,000 customers, but that number has since dwindled to fewer than 4,000. In part because of its VOD capabilities, the service was used by the BBC as a testing ground for a number of at-the-time quite innovative interactive TV services, including the interactive drama, "Thunder Road" (note: the latter, which was written and directed by local playwright, John Godber, consisted of 30 three-minute episodes that aired every day. KIT subscribers could select their own plots, accessing additional footage featuring various Thunder Road characters, and could also review past episodes, play games based on the show, and communicate with fellow viewers via email and discussion forums--see [itvt] Issue 4.76 Part 2) and an on-demand news service (note: the latter service allowed viewers to use the arrow keys on their remote controls to select between on-demand video coverage of six current headline stories, as well as news, sports, and weather round-ups).

KIT was financially troubled for much of its existence: as early as spring of 2003, Kingston Communications (which is believed to have lost as much as $20 million on the venture) stated that it was "currently evaluating a number of options to eliminate the losses from our interactive television service, KIT" and warned that "if these options are unsuccessful, we will close the service by October." The service was championed at Kingston Communications by that company's then- CEO, Steve Maine, who was replaced in late 2003 by a KIT-skeptic, Malcolm Fallen, casting KIT's future even further into doubt.

Nevertheless, there is a chance that KIT may survive in some form: a source told [itvt] that BSkyB, which has made no secret of its plans to enter the broadband TV space (the company recently acquired broadband ISP, Easynet, and is expected to use the latter's infrastructure, which it is in the process of upgrading, to offer an IP VOD service), is in negotiations to take over the service.

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