There are, believe it or not 600,000 Freesat users in the United Kingdom. In the run up to Xmas there will be a renewed awareness campaign for the free-to-air satellite cousin of Freeview (the free-to-air via your TV aerial digital service).
Freesat owners will be getting an early Xmas present with the arrival of the BBC iPlayer service for Freesat boxes that can connect to the Internet. Mostly this tends to be for HD boxes that already have the requisite ethernet socket.
Also a small number of (OK two) locations will be enabling HD content for Freeview itself as the first generation HD capable Freeview boxes go on sale. Expect to see existing non HD set top boxes and PVRs drop in price as old stock is cleared.
Meanwhile the BBC trust has been told that Project Canvas, the joint venture between BBC,ITV, Five and BT to bring on demand content to viewers via suitably enabled TV sets and Internet enabled set top boxes will likely cost more than £115 million in the first fours years of its operation with £17 million recouped via revues the service will bring in at the end of this period. Questions remain as to what extent ITV and Five would be in a sound financial position to afford the estimated £25 million a piece that they’d be required to put into the funding pot.
Project Canvas has been a contentious undertaking in that it allows non-public service broadcasters to become partners with the bbc which was not the case when originally conceived. BSkyB would be welcome to provide services on the platform but cannot become a partner in the project.
Canvas also has to walk carefully in the shadow of the now defunct Project Kangaroo which proposed a consolidated video on demand (VOD) platform with content from BBC Worldwide,ITV.com and Channel 4’s 4OD which was planned to launch in 2008 but was eventually blocked by the competition commission this year.
It’s not been long since the official launch of Freesat and take up in this short period has been good, statistically outstripping any ongoing Freeview purchases though it could be argued that most of the major take-up for Freeview has already happened with only the minority still using existing analogue broadcast signals prior to the total analogue switch off in 2012.
One of the missing items in this first generation of Freesat boxes is that of a suitable PVR. The first available models are unlikely to reach the market until just before Xmas so I was intrigued to see this fairly affordable Freesat box from Maplins. The Fortec Star FS-440 (snappy name!) has PVR capabilities built in once an external USB hard drive is plugged into it. If you have a redundant sky satellite dish sitting on your wall then the addition of a Freesat box will yield the many free-to-air TV and radio channels the service provides.
For this price it’ll only yield a standard definition pictures but makes for an affordable stop-gap until the high definition capable Freesat boxes come down in price. A word of warning in that this is not a natural Freesat box and may require a firmware update to be applied in order to receive a Freesat EPG .
Today Freesat finally launches in the UK after a series of protracted false starts. A satellite dish based counterpart to the existing free-to view digital TV service Freeview it provides greater UK wide coverage than Freeview and brings the benefit of High Definition channels such as BBC HD and ITV HD along with a larger number of free standard definition channels, regional variations and radio channels than Freeview.
We’ll no doubt see a growing number of Freesat boxes and PVR’s in our high streets and hopefully prices will fall if adoption rates are good. Hopefully this move strengthens free-to-view digital TV in the UK rather than confuses the issue or undermines existing offerings. With the slow growth of IPTV (TV via broadband) and existing subscription based satellite and cable offerings it will be interesting to see how good the take-up of Freesat is.
Expect to see a fair ammount of publicity about Freesat on a Brit TV near you.
Our Freeview TV box has announced a new TV channel and lo it’s another +1 channel. To be more precise it’s Channel 4+1. Can someone tell me why, in this day and age of on demand, PVR’s, DVD recorders and the like as to why the precious Freeview channel slots get clogged with +1 channels?
Is there really any excuse for missing a TV program with all the many recording options available? I mean if people really don’t own recorders any more (or have no idea how to work them) then clearly we should have +1+1 channels ad infinitum for those that even manage to forget the +1 chance an hour after the actual broadcast.
Why stop there? how about -1 channels for those that can’t wait the hour until the first airing. It’s bad enough that the crowded Freeview spare capacity gets clogged with myriad shopping channels let alone the prospect of more +1 channels . Is TV so bereft of new ideas that it can only keep filling precious new channel slots with existing channels delayed by 1 hour.
I’ve got to stop there as I need to clear the excessive foam from around my snarling mouth.
At the end of July the BBC will launch its iPlayer which will allow on-line users to access BBC content from the previous 7 days of television and allow them to view on their Windows computer for 30 days. In addition users will be able to watch ‘live’ TV via web streaming.The system itself is overdue and has attracted some criticism for its use of Microsoft’s media player and digital rights management (DRM) though some of that pressure, including from the EU and open source advocates may ensure that Mac users who are also license payers are not locked out of the system in the long term. The Beeb also want to make the content available via Virgin Media and via as yet unbuilt adapted Freeview boxes that can access the Internet.
Upon its launch two types of computer user will be excluded from use. Apple Mac users and Microsoft Vista users though it is hoped that they will be included at some future date.
Channel 4 already has its 4OD (on demand) system available for windows users and Five have dabbled with paid downloads
I had a slightly odd technology experience this afternoon. My partner rang me from the other side of the world and she was watching Wimbledon tennis on the late night TV. “Is this live?” she asked. I turned on my (our) TV to check and indeed it was. Only I could hear fault calls and crowd cries down the phone-line before they happened for me in my lounge room. ‘Live’ was happening quicker on the other side of the world! I suppose it’s down to the delay inherent in freeview digital TV but it was an odd technology paradox.
Tardis tennis over at the BBC combines Dr Who, time travel and tennis.