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BBC goes commercial with

As part of an overall effort to revamp its venerable public radio and television network, the BBC launches a Web entertainment and information service.

As part of an overall effort to revamp its venerable public radio and television network, Britain's BBC today formally launched a commercial Web entertainment and information service called

The new service, which is built around BBC programs, magazines, and personalities, U.K. households online aims to help the network compete with other commercial offerings. Within the next year, the BBC plans to launch a 24-hour news service and online versions of its domestic and world news dispatches. The BBC also plans to offer digital TV, which combined with compelling Net services, could help clear a path to PC-TV convergence. provides a series of Webzines, focusing on sport, film, and TV, motoring, and entertainment. There is also an online shop; sections covering travel, comedy, and science fiction will follow. The majority of Beeb's content will be available free to users, although there will be specific "premium service" areas where users will be charged for access.

Content on the site will extend brand values rather than just replicating content already on TV, according to the company. The BBC is especially focusing on content that appeals to those who are usually ignored or marginalized on the Web--namely women and users over 40.

"Beeb is designed for everyone and that's what makes it so exciting and unique. Beeb's going to be surprising and innovative, but above all accessible and entertaining," said Rupert Miles, director of

The idea to leverage brand power from TV to the Web is not new. America's PBS has put its NewsHour online, and the popular Nickelodeon channel is trying to push its TV viewers to its Net site with program listings, games, trivia, jokes, and information on volunteerism.

Like everywhere else, the number of online users in the United Kingdom is skyrocketing. According to Jupiter Communications, the United Kingdom has the fourth largest number of online households in the world, following the United States, Japan, and Germany. By 2000, 4.3 million households will be online.