Two British banking companies are to provide banking via television, a delivery mode that met with a poor reception in the United States.

HSBC Holdings and Abbey National PLC are working with a popular digital television service of British Interactive Broadcasting called Open Interactive Ltd.

HSBC received more than 21,000 inquiries about the service within 10 days of its launching last month, said Carina Kemp, senior manager of the banking company's British Interactive program office. Abbey is to start its service at the end of this month, said a spokesman.

HSBC expects the response to banking via television to be better than that for Internet banking, Ms. Kemp said. It has acquired a 20% stake, worth $60 million, in British Interactive, which was formed in August 1997 to bring banking and other services to digital television. It is spending $24 million on marketing.

The aggressiveness of the U.K. banks contrasts with the retreat U.S. banks made from interactive television ventures earlier this decade. Barnett Banks of Florida -- before its acquisition by NationsBank, which is now Bank of America -- was one of a handful to test, then drop the service.

Ms. Kemp said television penetration in the United Kingdom is 98%, compared with 30% penetration for personal computers, only half of which are equipped with modems for Internet access. Television banking also requires only a $60 installation fee for a satellite dish and set-top box.

Catherine Corby, a senior vice president at Atlanta-based Speer & Associates who was involved in the Barnett effort, said that test indicated tremendous demand for television banking but the technology was supplanted by the Internet.

She said success is imminent for the U.K. banks, in part because the digital television system they are using has the same infrastructure as the Internet. The U.K. government has called for a complete migration from analog to digital television by 2008.

HSBC plans to offer basic services through digital television and more complex products and services through the Internet. "Those with a PC who want to do additional financial research through a search engine and manipulate data can use the Internet," Ms. Kemp said. "But those who just want to look at their checking account balances or pay a bill can easily do so during commercial breaks."

HSBC's digital television service currently includes account balances, a mortgage and loan calculator, and a car price-quote facility on more than 250 models available for lease. Sign-up is available for transactional banking and bill-payment services, which are scheduled to be started in February. Eventually HSBC will add travel and health insurance services.

Philadelphia-based Integrion Financial Network is providing the software to run HSBC's television and Internet services.

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