On Sunday, the Sky Channel network of newspaper magnate Rupert Murdoch unveils Britain's first satellite television service, offering a digest of news, feature films, talk shows, popular music and soaps.
But a glitch in the new service - satellite receiver production delays - will mean that fewer than 1,000 subscribers will be able to watch when the Sky Channel signs on, officials said.Sky spokeswoman Fiona Waters said the channel, which has operated as a cable station since 1982, already has 600,000 cable viewers in Ireland and Britain, where television has been dominated by the government-funded British Broadcasting Corporation, and its commercial rival, the Independent Television Network.
"For the dishes, though, sales are starting at a few hundred or a thousand in the field," Waters said.
"The BBC only had 400 TV sets after their first year of broadcasting in the 1940s, so we're hoping to do better than that," she said, adding that Sky "can probably do good business with a network of two million viewers."
A halt in production of the new satellite dishes at manufacturers Amstrad PLC last fall prevented retailers from receiving them until only one week before launch.
"There was a short delay of about five weeks because of finalizing some technical specifications," a spokeswoman for Amstrad said.
But Amstrad still believe they will reach their targets to produce 100,000 dishes in April, and 1 million by the end of the year.
Sky, utilizing 200 of the station's 400 employees and transmitting via the French Astra satellite, will offer four channels: Two showing films, talk shows and soap operas, a sports channel, and Britain's first 24-hour news channel, which will carry the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.
An Amstrad dish currently costs $348 plus $87 installation, cheaper than that of the rival station British Satellite Broadcasting, which hopes to begin transmissions in September.
"The dishes are not their problem," said Chris McLaughlin, corporate affairs manager at BSB, who has invested $439 million in the rival station.