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Sky News launches breaking-news desktop alert service

LONDON - BSkyB is turning up the heat on its rivals with the announcement that its rolling news channel Sky News is launching a free news alert service that will notify users about major stories as they break.

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The service will increase loyalty among Sky News users in the already competitive world of online and TV news providers.

The TV channel is the market leader in this sector with an audience share of 0.6% in the first quarter of 2003, up from 0.4% last quarter, according to figures from the Independent Television Commission. BBC News 24's TV audience share was 0.4%, up from 0.3% the previous period.

Sky News was far and away the most popular news channel during the war on Iraq, which began on March 21. However, in the online battle, the BBC's website is the clear winner.

The war also boosted traffic to the website at According to the latest Nielsen//NetRatings figures, during February Sky News attracted 695,178 unique visitors, rising 78% to 1,240,136 in March during the run-up to and including the first few days of the war in Iraq, which started on March 21.

BBC News saw its unique audience jump 29% to 4,023,977 in March compared with February.

The service underlines Sky News' "continued commitment to be first with breaking news", the broadcaster said in a statement.

Steve Bennedik, head of Sky News Interactive, said: "Sky News is committed to continually innovating and changing the way people access news, ensuring that we reach people whether they are at work, home or on the move -- via mobile phones, PCs, the radio and television. The alerts are another example of Sky News leading the field with its interactive offering."

Sky News has made clear its intention to remain the market leader after the government ordered BBC News 24 to break more news, following an inquiry that looked at whether it was worth the money the BBC was investing in it.

Sky News' alerts use software created by Skinkers Communications, which sits on the tool bar and bypasses congested email channels. It only works when a computer is switched on.

It can be downloaded from from today.

Further alerts look set to follow in 2003, with sports and entertainment alerts planned in the coming months.

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