FIFE-based technology group MGt has landed a multi-million-pound contract with the new challenger in the digital TV market, which it claims could create as many as 700 jobs over the next three years.
Top Up TV is to launch next month, offering customers using the BBCís Freeview service the chance to buy a package of ten additional channels - such as E4 and UK Gold - for £7.99 a month.
MGt, which already counts ITV, Channel Four and Five among its customers, will be providing its encryption software to the new group, while also handling all Top Up TVís customer service and billing operations from its Kirkcaldy HQ.
MGt chief executive Jonathan Guthrie said: 'The value of the deal all depends on how successful Top Up TV turns out to be, but it would run to millions and I see it as having the potential to become our biggest single contract. I think the productís right, I think theyíre targeting the right area of the marketplace, I think the management are very good and Iíve a lot of confidence in the idea.'
He added: 'If Top Up TV is as successful as I think it could be, itís perfectly feasible that we could be creating as many as 700 jobs on the back of this contract, two to three years down the line.'
Top Up TV has been set up by David Chance, the former deputy managing director of BSkyB, who included MGt in his failed attempt to take control of ITV Digital after Carlton and Granada pulled the plug on the venture.
Guthrie, another former BSkyB executive, said that the deal had been won through the companyís ability in the sector rather than his personal links with Chance.
MGt supplies back-office services to a string of home-shopping channels, including JML and a number of adult entertainment channels, including Playboy TV. Late last year it won a deal with ITV, Channel 4 and Five to upgrade the coding system used to transmit these channels on the BSkyB digital platform.
According to accounts filed with Companies House, MGt made a pre-tax loss of £616,000 in the year to 30 June 2003 - a substantial improvement on the £1.6 million deficit posted for 2002. Its turnover increased about 13 per cent to almost £7.5m.
Guthrie said the group had been operating profitably for the past six months or so and he was upbeat about prospects for the new year.
MGt will create about 100 jobs over the course of this year to cope with the launch of Top Up TV, taking the companyís total workforce to about 700.
Future recruitment will depend on the success of Top Up TV, which will also be available to former ITV Digital customers who have kept their old set-top box.
DEPUTY BUSINESS EDITOR