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BSkyB launches interactive TV billing service

Utility companies will soon be able to offer household billing and answer related enquires via interactive digital TV (iDTV),...

Utility companies will soon be able to offer household billing and answer related enquires via interactive digital TV (iDTV), after BSkyB launched a billing service on its iDTV platform.

A number of utility companies, including telephone, power and retail finance organisations, are in discussions with the broadcaster to launch iDTV billing services, following a successful six-month trial of the technology which involved 200,000 Sky Digital customers.

Ian Valentine, technical alliances director for Sky Interactive, said the new service, which is based on technology from software provider Macro 4, represents an opportunity to improve customer service. "With analogue switch-off due in 2010, iDTV is an ideal mechanism to deliver efficient, high-quality customer service to UK consumers," he said. "[The service] is an ideal way for any organisation to offer the benefits of electronic billing to their customers."

Davnet Cassidy, an analyst at GartnerG2, said she was sceptical about how successful iDTV billing will be, as digital TV users have not shown any inclination to use services other than games and information through their televisions thus far.

"The services will be simple to use but they do not add any value - people will still want their bills on paper," she said. "Companies want to get involved because they want to be seen to be multi-channel but the benefits are marginal."

Macro 4's Columbus software takes existing computer-generated bills and automatically converts them into a format - in this case Sky's enhanced Wireless Markup Language microbrowser - that can be viewed on iDTV or the Internet.

Cassidy dismissed suggestions that iDTV could eliminate paper bills as "pie in the sky".

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