British Sky Broadcasting and British Telecommunications won official European Union approval for their venture to provide interactive digital TV services in Britain, the European Commission said.
EU approval means Europe's No. 2 satellite broadcaster and the biggest British phone company can proceed with plans to launch the service, British Interactive Broadcasting, before the end of the year. BIB will allow customers to shop and bank via their televisions using a digital set-top box.
The companies made several changes to their original plan to secure EU approval, the commission said. They agreed not to require BIB customers to subscribe to BSkyB's pay TV service, and to give up exclusive rights to the technology used for the set-top box, among other concessions.
With partners including Midland Bank and Matsushita Electric Industrial, as well as BSkyB and BT, BIB is poised to enter the nascent market for interactive digital TV services, including Internet access, home banking, home shopping and games.
It will face competition from cable companies that plan to offer high-speed Internet service.
The commission said it plans to give BIB the final green light after third parties have 30 days to comment on the decision.