BT pay-TV boss walks

Chris Forrester

Dan Marks, the highly-regarded CEO of BT Vision, the pay television division of British Telecom, has quit, citing his “frustration” over BSkyB’s dominance over pay television in general, and soccer in particular.

BT Vision offers a ‘hybrid’ service, supplying digital-terrestrial signals (which are available free) but linking its set-top box with a broadband VOD service. While aiming for 3m subscribers by next year it is widely accepted to be far short of its ambitions, having perhaps just 500,000 paying subs. Marks said the poor take-up is due to the service's extremely limited access to live Premiership football.

"I'm leaving BT Vision in a good position, but there are clearly some very big issues with pay-TV," he said. Mr Marks will go at the end of the month. He commented on the current critical financial position at sports broadcaster Setanta. "What is happening to Setanta is a pretty good example of the challenges that are faced by everybody in this marketplace, which is so profoundly dominated by Sky."

Marks said it would be "quite challenging" for BT Vision to meet its financial target of two million-three million subscribers by 2011, unless Ofcom accelerated its review of the pay-TV industry which would enable BT to access BSkyB's premium film and football content "on reasonable terms".

BT was also a key supporter of the proposed Project Canvas scheme, where along with the BBC and ITV back-catalogue programming would have been made widely available to all Freeview and Freesat users.

Mr Marks does not have a job to go to and is an outside candidate for Michael Grade’s job as head of ITV.