Sony and satellite TV operator BSkyB will today announce a marketing tie-up through which the two companies will jointly promote HDTV (high definition television) in the UK.

BSkyB, which has 8 million customers in the UK, is planning to launch an HDTV service in 2006 comprised of high-definition channels and special events coverage. The joint marketing effort will see Sony televisions promoted to customers of BSkyB's forthcoming service, said Sony in Tokyo.

The marketing blitz will start prior to BSkyB's launch of HDTV channels, scheduled for the first half of next year, said Robert Fraser, BSkyB spokesman. The deal, which will promote Sony televisions to customers of BSkyB's forthcoming service, is aimed at generating "strong consumer awareness" of the benefits of HDTV, Fraser said. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

European broadcasters have been late in offering HDTV channels. Despite the widespread availability of digital television, viewers in most European countries have no access to high-definition programming. This has made it difficult for TV set makers to convince large numbers of consumers to pay the premium prices that HD sets command.

In contrast set makers are selling millions of HD televisions in Japan and the US, where high-definition broadcasting has already been launched.

However with the World Cup soccer championship in Germany only six months away TV set makers and European broadcasters are keen to begin services. The World Cup typically boosts sales of expensive television sets.

Earlier this year BSkyB announced a deal with Thomson to produce a set-top box for the HDTV service.

BSkyB will offer channels such as Sky One, a Sky sports channel, two Sky movies channels, a Sky Box Office channel, Artsworld and National Geographic HD in addition to forthcoming ones, Fraser said. The channels will feature original content in the HD format, and other programs will be optimised for HD, he said.