BT is reportedly weighing up a number of moves into cable TV and utilities provision in attempts to further reduce its debt mountain. The amount was cut to around £26bn over the weekend by the £2.14bn sale of international directories business Yell.
Yell has been bought by a newly formed company jointly owned by funds advised or controlled by Apax Partners & Co Ventures and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst.
The struggling telco has also confirmed that it is looking at delivering TV through its telephone network, and could even move into selling water, gas and electricity. At the time of its privatisation in 1984, BT was banned from providing cable services until January 2001.
Nationalised companies, such as British Gas, have already shown that owning a large database can be a powerful tool when it comes to cross-selling services in new markets.
Recently appointed BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland, former chairman of the state-funded BBC, is thought to be arguing that the telco should make the most of its database of 19 million phone subscribers.
To offer TV through its network, BT would have to upgrade its copper wiring so that television signals, the internet and telephone services could be carried on the same digital subscriber line (DSL), but the company has so far been notoriously slow in rolling out DSL services.
BT would also have to partner with content providers such as BSkyB or On Digital in the same way as other cable firms currently operate. Indeed, the telco would be going head to head with NTL should it decide to offer TV connectivity.
The combination of BT and TV would appear to mirror the Labour Party's plans to promote home adoption of broadband technologies.
Labour's business manifesto, launched today, emphasises that a digital TV set combined with a high-speed telephone line is the best way to turn the country's internet users into a broadband Britain.
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