Top Up TV: Wikis


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Top Up TV
Type DTT Pay TV and Download Service
Founded 2004
Headquarters Luxembourg
Key people David Chance, Nick Humby
Industry Media
Products Pay TV services
Revenue Unknown

Top Up TV is a subscription video on demand service broadcasting on the UK digital terrestrial platform in the UK. The service offers an assortment of content from providers such as BBC, Warner, Cartoon Network and TCM. The content is accessed by a Top Up TV Freeview+ digital Television recorder. There are three viewing packs which customers are able to subscribe to; the standard pack being TV Favourites which costs £11.99p/m with no contract. The second viewing pack is a premium movies service providing 30 on-demand films a month from NBC Universal called PictureBox. The third viewing pack is ESPN which for a monthly fee of £9.99 viewers can watch live premiership football amongst other sports such as UFC and MLS. ESPN is the permanent replacement for the now defunct Setanta Sports channel which went into administration and ESPN America which was broadcast shortly after Setanta’s collapse.


On-Demand Service

On 30 August 2006 Top Up TV announced that it was to launch a new service known as Top Up TV Anytime. The new service required a new DTR known as the Top Up TV Freeview+ box (originally branded the Top Up TV Anytime DTR then Top Up TV+ Box). The box is effectively a Freeview+ digital television recorder which allows access to on-demand and encrypted channels which are Nagravision Cardmageddon encrypted. The original service of 11 live channels, since Anytime's launch, has been reduced to 2 live channels, G.O.L.D. and Home. Existing channels of the original service at launch closed down or had their hours reduced before being phased out completely. Existing channels along with new channels such as Living and Disney Channel joined the new service and began offering content on an on-demand basis. The service when launched cost £9.99, an increase of £2 from the original service. The service now costs £11.99 per month and no contract. Recently Top Up TV rebranded with a new logo and colour scheme. The basic package of on-demand content was also rebranded to TV Favourites from Top Up TV Anytime. For the first time, services have been placed into viewing packs: TV Favourites, PictureBox Movies and ESPN. Furthermore as part of the rebrand, the content is arranged by genre in the TV Guide. These genres are movies, comedy, drama, factual and kids.


Top Up TV content is available by pressing the Top Up TV button on the remote whilst watching a live TV channel or perusing the EPG. The squares with the name of the various providers are called lozenges. As of June 2009 the Top Up TV programming has been arranged into genres. ESPN is a live channel on the EPG at channel 34 but has no lozenge. Home and G.O.L.D. can also be watched live on channels 17 and 26 respectively. Teachers TV is also carried free on the Top Up Anytime 3 stream live on channel 88 and on-demand via a lozenge in the Top Up TV section of the guide.


  • TCM
  • PictureBox – Premium movies service costing £7 or £5 if taken with TV Favourites





Previously Animal Planet, MTV, Paramount Comedy, Toonami (Replaced by CN Too), CN Too, Life and Times, Sports Xtra, Hallmark Channel, LIVING, Discovery Channel and Discovery Real Time offered programming on-demand through Top Up TV but was later discontinued due to merging with its main channel or discontinued carriage. Setanta Sports 1 was also available until the channel went into administration and subsequently closed down. Free services – Info channel, Showcase, Lotto Xtra On-demand and Playphone hits have been discontinued.


A range of Top Up TV Freeview+ Digital TV recorders automatically records programmes broadcast overnight, which the user can then watch on demand. The first generation box was manufactured by THOMSON – Thomson DTI 6300-16 the containing a 160GB HDD. Higher capacity boxes were introduced later on with the THOMSON DTI 6300-25 effectively the Thomson DTI 6300-16 with a 250GB HDD. Furthermore different manufacturer's equipment such as LUXOR, BUSH, SHARP, WHARFEDALE and a new THOMSON box became available from retailers such as Argos and ASDA. These newer boxes contain varying degrees of capacity ranging from 160GB to 500GB.

Included in the packaging is a Top Up TV bespoke remote control and SCART lead, a signal improvement kit, an RF lead and a power cable. Printed materials include the Top Up TV welcome pack, a remote control codes guide and an instruction manual. The rear of the box has two SCART sockets, two tuners, an S-Video output, analogue phono output and Digital Audio output. It features a powered but functionless USB port on the front or rear of the DTR.

Programming is encrypted using Nagravision Cardmageddon since a card swap in 2008 as well as being DFES encrypted on box. Previously programmes were encrypted by MediaGuard SECA2 a more secure version of the encryption system used by the ill fated but superior (in many ways) ITV Digital Service.

Corporate information

The company was founded by two former BSkyB executives, David Chance and Ian West. Top Up TV is 20% owned by Five who took a stake in 2005, its Financial Officer is Nick Humby from Manchester United. Top Up TV's management team currently consists of Nick Markham as chief executive officer, Matt Seaman as chief operating officer, Nick Humby as chief financial officer and Simon Dore as chief technical officer.

The owner of Access Industries, Len Blavatnik, is said to have purchased a 70% stake in January 2007.[2]. In 2006, Top Up TV restructured which saw the original company liquidated under Members voluntary liquidation under the name Minds1.

According to the official Registre de Commerce et des Sociétés of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the most recent accounts lodged by Top Up TV Europe S.a.r.l. in 2009 (Comptes sociaux ou consolidés of 11/09/2009) indicated debts of 34 million euro and ongoing losses of 2 million euro. [3][1]

Original service

Top Up TV, as Newincco 166 Ltd, attempted to make an application for the multiplex licence bid for multiplex D on the DTT service in 2002 as a joint application with Carlton, Granada and Channel 4, trading as the Digital Terrestrial Alliance (DTA). The company were prepared to offer a "viable" and "lite-pay" service, which would have provided a large number of free to air channels and a few pay-TV ones [4]. The bid was unsuccessful, and the licence was instead awarded to the BBC, BSkyB and Crown Castle, which later became National Grid Wireless.

After the turn-down of a multiplex bid, Top Up TV turned to public service broadcasters Five and Channel 4 to gain capacity on the platform. On multiplex A, Top Up TV were granted four long-term streams (one of which previously hosted TV Travel Shop), and on multiplex 2, were granted one short-term stream from Channel 4. They came up with a time-shared system which allowed 10 pay-TV channels to be broadcast in the space of five television streams, two of which were allotted "empty" space, which later became ABC1 and Teachers' TV. The sixth stream was used as a temporary measure (as of the short-term contract with Channel 4), and hosted pay-per-view channels Xtraview and Red Hot.

Top Up TV focused less on the premium services which were prominent of ITV Digital prior to 2002. By 2005, eleven channels were available on the service but were all time-shared. Overnight this dropped to as few as two channels (from the main package), in order to make space for premium adult entertainment channels.

From its launch in 2004, Alice Beer ran an Information Programme viewable by the channel placeholders and the Top Up TV Sampler channel at the time about the service. From March 2004 Top Up TV provided a package of 10 timeshared TV channels, this was joined by an eleventh in 2005: UKTV Gold, UKTV Style, UKTV Food, Discovery Channel, Discovery Home & Leisure, TCM, E4, Bloomberg, Cartoon Network and Boomerang. In 2005 British Eurosport replaced E4 and Toonami joined the line-up. Discovery Home & Leisure was rebranded Discovery Real Time. In its first year of operation, the company made losses of £7 million. It is expected that this will fully close down in favour of Top Up TV Anytime. The original service broke even at 250,000 subscribers according to some sources around the Time Top Up TV Anytime was announced. However, this figure fell significantly short of the claimed potential subscriber numbers of 650,000 as set out in the original Freeview Plus proposal document.

Top Up TV provided additional services such as Xtraview which offered Top Up TV Channels for £1 a day but closed down after Channel 4 wanted the stream back for its own use. This was replaced by Top Up TV Pay As You Go which since closed. Top Up TV Active was an interactive advertising service that replace the off-air MHEG screens on Channel 107, it also featured an audio version of QuizWorld.

Since December 2006, the original service has been mostly replaced with the push video on demand service. The 11 channel line up has been reduced to 2 live channels which are expected to be phased out soon. The Xtraview access control system is still in use today for TelevisionX.


Original service

  • The BBC, a member of the Freeview Consortium, has accused Top Up TV of confusing customers by re-introducing pay-TV to DTT [2]. The Freeview consortium had intended to push DTT as an entirely free-to-air (FTA) option to avoid scaring off those who did not want to pay to watch TV. However, some suspect that the entirely-FTA proposition was a ploy by the BBC to safeguard the TV Licence, a suspicion confirmed by former BBC Director General Greg Dyke in his autobiography Inside Story.[3] Initially, the BBC tried to insist that all of Top Up TV's channels were put at the end of the EPG to avoid confusion. In response to this Top Up TV filed a complaint[4] with Ofcom over the BBC’s apparent refusal to list its new subscription channels on the DTT electronic programme guide. Ofcom spoke to the BBC and the matter was resolved between the parties. [5]
  • Top Up TV had also found itself on the wrong side of a number of Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Ofcom adjudications,[5][6][7][8][9] which have ruled that Top Up TV's advertising does not make the time-shared nature of the service clear enough. Their advertisements have been criticised in these rulings for appearing to indicate that 11 full channels are on offer when, in fact, the company only has broadcast access to 4.5 DTT channel streams and none of their channel offerings are broadcast full-time unlike their satellite and cable competitors.
  • The time sharing system also lead to criticism as it often cut programmes off before they were finished - especially on British Eurosport, and to a lesser extent on UKTV Gold. In its argument to the Advertising Standards Authority (see above), Top Up TV claimed that its channel suppliers joining the service had given an undertaking to align their channel's schedules to fit around Top Up TV's time sharing but that still left a few programmes cut off part way through.
  • On 18 May 2006 Top Up TV Ltd, Top Up TV's holding company, changed its name to Minds 1 Limited and entered members voluntary liquidation [10]. According to Top Up TV the move is part of a restructuring programme, and will see the company de-merged into three separate companies; Top Up TV 1 Limited, Top Up TV 2 Limited, and Top Up TV 3 Limited. The voluntary liquidation, combined with the initial heavy £7 million loss as reported in its own annual report, led to increased media speculation at the time regarding the viability and future of Top Up TV.

Video On Demand Service

  • On 7 October 2008, advertising for Top Up TV's set-top boxes appeared in programme details across the 4TV EPG, truncating the legitimate information to only a few characters. This was meant to have targeted Thomson customers only, but affected many other Freeview receivers using the 4TV EPG.[11][12][13]
  • The recent launch of version 3.59 of the Thomson Top Up TV set-top box software (March 2009) has led to some positive comments from users across a variety of on-line communities but a number of issues still remain to be solved as illustrated by the problems raised by those very same discussion forums. Though the release also attracted controversy with its removal of "Favourite Channel" functionality and the introduction of copy-protection on some downloaded content. This is due to licensing issues from rival EPG providers preventing TUTV from implementing favourites.
  • The direct experience of users of Top Up TV Anytime's 160GB and 250GB personal video recorders has been documented in reviews on the UK's Amazon retail site. The 160GB recorder achieved two stars out of a possible five[6] whilst the 250GB recorder only scored one star[7].

See also


External links

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