UK video-on-demand (VoD) pioneer, Yes Television, is to float on the London Stock Exchange. By the end of the year it may be followed by rival Video Networks.
Yes has already secured separate commitments from Buena Vista and Warner Bros International Television to buy into the company at the time of flotation. These are expected to give the two studios significant minority stakes in Yes and provide Yes with a guaranteed flow of movies and TV programming.
Although the timetable for its flotation has not yet been finalised, Yes aims to have finance and deals in place in time for a major marketing push in the early autumn. A raft of new high-speed phone lines become operational from June.
Yes, which has been delivering VoD services in its limited home market, the northern English town of Kingston-upon-Hull, is poised for rapid expansion. It has been running pilot services in Cardiff over cable networks controlled by NTL. And next month it will begin a national roll-out of VoD via British Telecom's DSL phone lines under a joint venture BT Yes Television. Yes claims that this makes it the first company in Europe capable of delivering VoD services on different platforms.
Yes said that it "aims to be the leading internet television portal for residential customers, [offering] customers instant access to movies, television programmes, music videos and other popular content."
Investment bank Robert Fleming has been appointed as its sponsor and flotation co-ordinator. Shares will be sold to financial institutions and via the Internet to the public.
Video Networks, which operates the Homechoice service over DSL lines in parts of North London, this week said that it is considering a public share sale by the end of 2000. Although Homechoice only has 1,500 subscribers at present, chairman Simon Hochhauser says that he is in discussions with investment bank Merrill Lynch and that the company could be worth £1bn. They have already raised some £80m from investors including GE Capital and LVMH boss Bernard Arnault.