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The name used by ITV for its digital service since August 2001, prior to which it was known as OnDigital.

OnDigital was launched in November 1998, one month after BSkyB's digital service. It was hoped to rival Sky, but with hindsight this was an impossible task given that ITV is much smaller and had no previous experience of running anything but their single free-to-air terrestrial channel. (Indeed when it comes to securing TV rights for the World Cup, ITV is such a small operation compared to Sky that it has to put forward a joint bid with its supposed rival the BBC, and even then it only really gets it because no one wants the World Cup to be on subscription TV.)

With fewer channels, a smaller budget and less of a reputation than Sky, the digital project never amounted to a great success, but by 2001 it was clear that things were going very badly indeed. In April, as the change of name was announced, subscriber targets were lowered in the face of rising costs. In June it was admitted that ITV Digital might collapse if no government help was received, and by 2002 its owners Granada and Carlton were no longer hiding the fact that the project was a failure. It was put up for sale in April 2002; potential buyers showed "insufficient interest" before the deadline of May 1 and the company was subsequently broken up, its assets to be sold separately.

Although no one could really say they were very surprised, the media in Britain made rather a lot of the collapse of a TV station that no one watched anyway. The most publicised reason for this is that ITV Digital still owes the Football League, to which all but the best professional football clubs belong, £178.5m in broadcasting rights from a deal they made in June 2000. They've been unable to honour the agreement as a result of their spectacular decline, and the possibility is being seriously considered that many League clubs will go out of business if no one pays up - many were already in financial trouble to begin with.

Less talked about, but just as important, is the fact that the Labour government intended to make a lot of money by shutting down all analogue transmissions by 2010 and selling off the technology, and hoped that ITV Digital would encourage people who still rely on analogue sets to update their TVs. If enough people refuse to switch to digital, as looks very possible, the government may be unable to make this move, so the collapse of ITV Digital is bad news for them. However the government announced on April 26 that they would not offer the company any financial support.

Source: a great archive of reports at http://media.guardian.co.uk/itvdigital/

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