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TV Net surfing hits U.K.

NetChannel launches its Internet TV service and begins distributing its set-top device in Britain just one month after releasing the product in the U.S.

Net surfing on television is coming to Europe.

NetChannel today launched its Internet TV service in the United Kingdom and began distributing its device at stores such as London's tony Harrods department store. Only last month, the company began launching the product in the United States.

U.S. Internet companies increasingly are accelerating their assault on Europe because of the high growth potential for Net-related businesses. WebTV, which also provides email and Net surfing via TV, is in a beta trial in Europe, a spokesman said today.

NetChannel's set-top box, made by NetProducts in the United Kingdom, sells for about $480 (or 300 British pounds), a company spokeswoman said. Net access costs about $24 per month (or about 15 pounds), she added.

NetChannel's U.K. programming partners include Associated Newspapers, B&Q, Condé Nast, and the Independent and United Newspapers, among others.

According to NetChannel, the main barrier to mass market penetration of the Net in the U.K. is a perception that computers are "too complicated and expensive."

The flip side, according to critics of these devices, is that they provide too few features and that many PCs now are entering the market priced at less than $1,000.

The launch of these devices in Europe closely follows a similar trend by ISPs and Net backbone providers to expand into the European market. Those companies include America Online, CompuServe, and UUNet, among others.