A look at the different digital TV services BT have been involved with over the years

Apple Interactive TV Box (1995)

BT originally trialled a video on demand using the Apple Interactive TV box which was deployed in select areas. Very little information is known regarding this but various product literature exists online.

This is not to be confused with the AppleTV streaming box, which does have a BT TV app.

BT Apple TV Box

Further Information (Non-BT branded box)

Analogue Satellite

BT also sold branded satellite receivers for the Sky analogue service, which were regular PAL satellite receivers with internal Videocrypt decoders. These were known as BT SVS receivers and were rebranded from various manufacturers. I’m not sure why BT decided to badge their own Sky analogue boxes, from what I’ve found they don’t have any stand out features like a caller display or internet access through the TV. Maybe they were sold to BT customers to encourage them to sign up to Sky, rather than cable?

Netgem BT iPlayer (2004)

BT launched a customized version of the Netgem iPlayer, that had been rebranded with BT, with additional features being added. The BT iPlayer supports the use of a caller display and a phonebook, the user can connect their box to the telephone line and can be notified of incoming calls whilst watching TV. IT did not offer subscription channels

As with the regular iPlayer you can access the internet and the enhanced TV guide (with channel logo’s) which is what made the Netgem iPlayer stand out

Further Information

BT Vision (2006)

BT launched its own subscription TV service in 2006. The BT Vision STB had an integrated Freeview DVB-T tuner and an ethernet network interface to allow TV programmes to be downloaded from the internet. The main driver of BT Vision was to allow Video on Demand using BT’s own network, whilst still using the Freeview broadcast infrastructure. BT Vision competed with Sky, Virgin Media and Homechoice/Tiscali TV. Around the time, Virgin Media were also in the process of launching their on demand services to the remaining customer base, whilst Sky were rolling out Anytime enabled Sky+ and SkyHD boxes, which used the internal hard drive for on demand programmes.

BT vision also launched around the time the BBC launched is iPlayer platform, with Channel4 launching 4OD in the same year. VOD was starting to become mainstream in a catch-up form where programmes previously broadcast within the last 7 days could be downloaded and viewed for free.

BT Vision used Microsoft Mediaroom for its middleware and infrastructure/DRM. Similar to ATT U-verse in the US, it was expected that BT would allow the Xbox 360 console to be used on the BT Vision service, similar to U-Verse, but this never materialized and the concept was abandoned. The operating system used is Windows CE version 5.

Multiroom was not supported with BT Vision, and it was not possible to use two set top boxes on the same connection with a subscription.

BT also had a games service, similar to Playjam and Sky Gamestar on Sky Digital. Launch games included Solitaire, Alfie’s Pub Quiz, Jumble Words, Busy Beaver, Deal With It, Tactiles, Push ‘n’ Shove and Maze master.

Set Top Boxes

All boxes have a built in dual DVB-T tuners for Freeview and a built in hard disk. Freeview HD is not supported on the earlier silver Philips models as they lack the T2 tuner support.

ManufacturerModelUSbCard SlotsOTher
PhilipsDTi7421/081 USB port2 Card Slots
PhilipsDTi9719/052 USB ports2 Card SlotsTelephone Line
PaceDIT7431/051 USB Port1 Card Slot
PaceDIT7831/051 USB Port
PaceDIT7421/051 USB Port

BT Youview (2012)

BT relaunched its TV service in 2012, using the Youview software and API. Like BT vision, Youview is similar in concept as it melds the broadcast DTT Freeview platform with IPTV channels and service, although Youview mainly offers a framework for streaming apps (BBC iPlayer, Netflix)