U.K.: BBC World Cup Plans via DBS a Royal Mess

The BBC's ambitious year-long trial of HD programming that is about to begin--terrestrially throughout London in a closed test, and via Sky (opens in new tab) satellite and Telewest cable -- ran into problems in the past week as complaints began pouring into a BBC-TV program from angry new HD set owners who also are Sky subs (HD Notebook, May 10, 2006).

The problem appears to be Sky's inability to get most of the 40,000-plus requested HD boxes into homes in time for the BBC's HD coverage of the World Cup from Germany. Many consumers said they went out and purchased HD sets primarily because Sky reps had marketed HD to coincide with the month-long global soccer championship starting June 9.

The day after the BBC aired a morning piece on its upcoming HD services, according to published reports, the hosts of the BBC breakfast show found themselves reading angry responses from a small army of Sky viewers.

The BBC said it wasn't Sky's fault. Comet, a retailer, reportedly had been telling customers that Sky could handle any HD installation within a two-week period. Sky, it seems, had been quoting much longer set-up times for its growing backlog of HD sub requests. There is no shortage of Sky HD boxes -- just not enough time to fill requests prior to the World Cup and Wimbledon, which begins in late June.

Meanwhile, Telewest says it can still install many of its HD cable boxes within a couple of weeks (although it only serves portions of the U.K.). The closed HD terrestrial trial run by the BBC throughout London also will continue as planned.