Freesat: Wikis

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Freesat
Type Digital satellite television provider
Joint venture between BBC & ITV plc
Founded 16 May 2007
Headquarters UK
Industry Media
Owner(s) BBC and ITV plc
Website http://freesat.co.uk/

Freesat is a free-to-air digital satellite television joint venture between the BBC and ITV plc, serving the United Kingdom.[1] The service was marketed from 6 May 2008 and offers a satellite alternative to the Freeview service on digital terrestrial television, with a selection of channels available without subscription for users purchasing a receiver. The service also makes use of the additional capacity available on digital satellite broadcasting to offer a selection of high-definition programming from the BBC and ITV.

Contents

History

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Background

The BBC and ITV, the two biggest free-to-air broadcasters in the UK, make their services available digitally through three routes: free-to-air via digital terrestrial and digital satellite, and subscription-only via digital cable.

On digital terrestrial, the channels have always been available free-to-air with the appropriate equipment. However, Freeview is currently available to only 73% of the population.[2] After analogue TV services are replaced in the planned digital switchover, this will increase to 98.5% for the public service channels and 90% for the full 'Freeview' service. In order to provide more widespread coverage and a larger number of channels, a digital satellite alternative was felt necessary.

The digital satellite platform has largely been controlled by the commercial operator BSkyB. Initially, both the BBC's and ITV's channels were encrypted since the original Astra satellites used for Sky Digital broadcast to most of Europe but the broadcasters' rights for premium content such as films and sports typically covered the UK only.

The use of encryption meant that any viewer wishing to view the channels had to purchase equipment from Sky and pay for a free-to-view viewing card in order to decrypt the channels. Similarly, in order to use the Videoguard encryption, the broadcasters needed to pay a fee to NDS Group.

Move to free-to-air

In May 2003 the BBC moved most of its channels from the Astra 2A satellite to Astra 2D, which has a footprint that focuses more tightly on the UK.[3] This move allowed the BBC to stop encrypting its broadcasts while continuing to meet its rights obligations. It dropped the encryption two months later.[4]

In September 2005, the BBC and ITV announced that they would collaborate on a free-to-air satellite service to complement Freeview.[5] Two months later, ITV, whose channels had already been located on the Astra 2D satellite since launching on the Sky Digital platform some years earlier, also made their channels free-to-air. On November 18th, 2008, Five[6] joined freesat, on the 23rd of February 2010 CNBC Europe joined. [7]


The free-to-air channels can be received using any standard digital satellite (DVB-S) receiver. However, the Freesat project aims to provide a more managed service with an Electronic Programme Guide and interactive features similar to the Freeview service launched three years earlier. Unlike Freeview, however, these features would only be available to approved receivers manufactured under licence from Freesat.

The initial plan was to launch the service in early 2006. This was postponed to Autumn 2007 as approval from the BBC Trust was only received in April 2007.[8] However, the service was further delayed and was officially launched on 6 May 2008.[9]

Channels

See also: List of channels on Freesat

Launch channels

The service launched officially on 6 May 2008. From the launch, Freesat advertised all national television channels from the BBC and ITV as being available on the platform (excluding ITV2+1), as well as all national BBC radio networks.[10] Channel 4 also managed to make most of its channels free-to-air in preparation for the launch. In addition some channels from other broadcasters such as Chello Zone, CSC Media Group, Al Jazeera English and Euronews were included on the channel list.[11] Channel Five and its sister channels were notably absent at launch, as were channels from BSkyB, MTV and UKTV.

High-definition

BBC HD was the only high-definition channel available on Freesat from launch day[12], with ITV HD added as a 'red-button interactive' service from 7 June 2008.[13][14][15] On 12 March 2010 it was announced, that ITV HD would change from a red button interactive service to a full time channel called ITV1 HD on 2 April 2010, simulcasting the main ITV1 channel.[16]

Future channels

Freesat had said that it expected to add around 30 channels each month, with 200 channels to be available by the end of 2008[17] and 230 by early 2009,[18] although this target was not met. In July 2008, Freesat announced that there were a number of "exciting music and international" channels to be added in the near future, including another exclusive-to-Freesat channel, and potentially more high-definition content.[18] To date these channels have not launched.

In November 2008, Irish public broadcaster Radio Telefís Éireann announced a delay in launching its new international channel RTÉ International due to financial cutbacks. RTÉ had hoped to launch the new channel, which would possibly have been carried on Freesat, by the end of 2009[19] but to date there has been no launch.

Currently, Freesat offers a lineup of 153 television and radio channels.

Reception equipment

See also: Freesat+

Receivers

Reverse of a Humax Freesat HD box

At the launch of the service, there were two types of Freesat receivers available — standard definition-only receivers and high definition-capable receivers. As of June 2008 there are only four companies licensed to produce Freesat boxes.[20] Humax launched a Freesat recorder (Freesat+) which was available to the public on 22 November 2008. In the first months of the product being released, there were large stock shortages.[21]

Televisions

Following the initial launch, Panasonic introduced three plasma televisions with integrated HD Freesat receivers. At the end of October 2008, Panasonic brought out 2 more sizes which are the 32" and 37".

In April 2009 LG launched 4 LCD TVs with built-in Freesat receivers. The LG series is the LF7700, with screen sizes of 32", 37", 42"and 47". Sony have released two televisions with Freesat receivers, the W5810 and Z5800 series, available from sizes 32" up to 52" and in 100Hz and 200Hz alternatives.

Satellite dish

The service makes use of the same fleet of satellites as the popular subscription satellite service Sky Digital: Astra and Eurobird 1. This means that any satellite dish which has been used to receive this service will be capable of receiving Freesat, with the addition of a receiver.

For users who do not currently have a satellite dish, Freesat offers an installation service which is made available through retailers and which is advertised in a leaflet included with Freesat receivers. It is also possible to buy a satellite dish and install it yourself.

Republic of Ireland

While Freesat systems work in the Republic of Ireland, until October 2008, such systems were not made available in Irish retail outlets. However on 23 October 2008, several Irish retail chains, including Maplin, Tesco Ireland and PowerCity, began offering modified Freesat systems from Grundig and Alba.[22] The systems have all Freesat branding removed and replaced with a Sat4free brand name. The requirement to enter a UK postcode has also been removed, the systems instead set to use the version of the electronic programme guide appropriate for Northern Ireland.[23] Other retailers like Lidl and Aldi sell Satellite kits with a Comag receiver which can receive Freesat and non-encrypted satellite TV.

Sky News has an Irish variant which is Irish focused for adverts (although it's not listed in the Freesat EPG). RTÉ Radio is broadcast without encryption, as is Newstalk via Astra.

Outside the UK and Republic of Ireland

It is possible to receive Freesat outside the UK and Ireland, although a larger dish may be required as the Astra 2D footprint is mainly focused on the UK and Republic of Ireland. Freesat receivers ask for a postcode during installation, but this is just to determine which regional services to select. The ITV HD channel is currently not made available to receivers set with a postcode in the STV, Grampian or UTV regions. In the weaker signal areas, C4 reception can be a problem, but by entering a Northern Ireland postcode into any freesat box, the strongest regional variant will be received.

Technical details

Freesat broadcasts from the same fleet of satellites (Astra 28.2°E and Eurobird 1) as Sky Digital. Channels are broadcast using DVB-S. The Freesat electronic programme guide is broadcast from the Eurobird 1 satellite situated at 28.5° east. Freesat's role is not broadcasting or availability of channels (although the BBC and ITV are substantial broadcasters in their own right) but instead providing a platform for receiving the channels and the EPG.

All the channels broadcasting to date are broadcasting using DVB-S. Standard definition channels are broadcast using MPEG-2, while high definition channels are broadcast using MPEG-4. Currently, BBC HD uses DVB-S rather than DVB-S2 since the channel shares a transponder with several SD channels. Since the channels are broadcast in-the-clear, they can also be received by non-Freesat receivers and, most commonly, Sky Digiboxes.

Interactive television is done using MHEG-5 rather than the proprietary OpenTV platform used by Sky.

The specification for Freesat boxes includes having an Ethernet socket on the back. This is to allow future on demand programmes provided by the BBC iPlayer (or a service similar to the cancelled on demand Kangaroo service) to be viewed directly on the customer's television.

Adoption

The table below shows the quarterly and cumulative sales of Freesat equipment since the inception of the service. Sales rose through the first two quarters of the service and since then have averaged around 120,000 per quarter, leading to total sales of 350,000 by the end of Q1, 2009. Of all sales, three quarters have been high definition receivers.

Quarter Quarterly Sales Cumulative Sales Quarterly HD Sales Cumulative HD Sales Quarterly HD Proportion Reference
Q2, 2008 39,018 39,018 23,854 23,854 61% [1]
Q3, 2008 68,982 108,000 49,146 73,000 71% [2]
Q4, 2008 125,000 233,000 99,000 172,000 79% [3]
Q1, 2009 117,000 350,000 91,000 263,000 78% [4]
Q2, 2009 98,000 450,000 77,000 340,000 79% [5]
Q3, 2009  ? 640,000  ?  ? 79% [6]

See also

References

  1. ^ "What's freesat - Free digital TV for everyone". Freesat UK. 2009-07-31. http://freesat.co.uk/index.php?page=features.Main. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  2. ^ "The Consumer Experience - Policy Evaluation 07". http://www.ofcom.org.uk/research/tce/policy07/. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  3. ^ Jay, Alan (2003-05-29). "BBC ceases Astra 2A transmissions". Digital Spy. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/satellite/a11166/bbc-ceases-astra-2a-transmissions.html. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  4. ^ Jay, Alan (2003-05-09). "BBC shifts FTA transmission date". Digital Spy. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/satellite/a11063/bbc-shifts-fta-transmission-date.html. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  5. ^ "BBC and ITV to start Sky TV rival". BBC News (bbc.co.uk). 2005-11-07. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/4221722.stm. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  6. ^ "Five joins Freesat". Broadband TV News (www.broadbandtvnews.com). 2008-11-05. http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2008/11/05/five-joins-freesat/. Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  7. ^ "CNBC joins Freesat". Broadband TV News (www.broadbandtvnews.com). 2010-02-19. http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2010/02/19/cnbc-joins-freesat/. Retrieved 2010-02-25. 
  8. ^ BBC Trust (2007-04-27). "BBC Trust Approves "Freesat"". Press release. http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/news/press_releases/27_04_2007.html. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  9. ^ "Freesat confirms launch date as May 6". Digital Spy. 2008-04-30. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/digitaltv/a94961/freesat-confirms-launch-date-as-may-6.html. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  10. ^ "freesat - What's On". http://freesat.co.uk/index.php?page=whatson.Main. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  11. ^ "In full: Freesat channels at launch". Digital Spy. 2008-05-06. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/digitaltv/a95362/in-full-freesat-channels-at-launch.html. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  12. ^ "Free satellite TV service begins". BBC News (bbc.co.uk). 2009-04-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7384928.stm. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  13. ^ "Confirmed: ITV HD is Freesat exclusive". Digitalspy. 6 May 2008. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/digitaltv/a95312/confirmed-itv-hd-is-freesat-exclusive.html. Retrieved 6 May 2008. 
  14. ^ "ITV HD on Sky HD new EPG". Digitalspy. 10 April 2009. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=1016311. Retrieved 18 April 2009. 
  15. ^ "Sky Starts Phased Launch Of New Sky+HD Guide". BSkyB. 1 April 2009. http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/sky-starts-phased-launch-of-new-skyhd-guide-94178.php. Retrieved 18 April 2009. 
  16. ^ ITV plc (12 March 2010). "New ITV1 HD channel available on Freesat, Freeview, Sky and Virgin". Press release. http://www.itv.com/presscentre/pressreleases/programmepressreleases/itv1hdtolaunchinapril/default.html. Retrieved 16 March 2010. 
  17. ^ "Freesat plans 30 new channels a month". Broadband TV News. 2008-05-06. http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/?p=4746. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  18. ^ a b "Five 'cleared for Freesat launch'". Digital Spy. 2008-07-24. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/digitaltv/a114783/five-cleared-for-freesat-launch.html. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 
  19. ^ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/ireland/article5063332.ece
  20. ^ That is boxes designed for the Freesat platform but anyone can make a free-to-air receiver
  21. ^ West, Dave (2008-04-15). "Humax claims lead on high def Freesat box". Digital Spy. http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/satellite/a93895/humax-claims-lead-on-high-def-freesat-box.html. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  22. ^ "New digital TV service launched". The Irish Times. 2008-10-24. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2008/1024/1224715113202.html. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  23. ^ "Sat4Free launches in Ireland". Join Freesat. 2008-10-25. http://www.joinfreesat.co.uk/index.php/sat4free-launches-in-ireland. 

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