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Any details on the proposed BBC/ITV 'Freesat' service?

Discussion in 'Satellite TV, Sky TV & FreeSat' started by gavan, Oct 28, 2005.

  1. gavan

    gavan
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    I understand that ITV are due to go completely FTA 'quite soon' and that they are going to launch some sort of branded service together with the BBC for FTA digital satellite akin to the Freeview DTT service.

    Does anyone have any pointers/info about this? So far, information seems pretty sketchy other than ITV are going to broadcast 'in the clear'.


    IMO, what they _need_ to do is something like the following:

    * Get all the standard terrestrial channels on board. (Ch4, Five)
    * Target key third party channels (eg. SciFi, the various 'UK' brand channels, TCM)
    * Offer 5.1 surround on programmes, where available.
    * Make it clear to the public that they can buy HDD boxes that DON'T require any sort of subscription to work. ie. You buy your hardware and pay nothing else.
    * Have a firm plan in place for a HiDef service in the future. Maybe endorse/market a box that will work with HD when it becomes available.
    * DON'T offer this HiDef service through Sky's EPG.
    * Pull their SD channels from Skys EPG as soon as they have a large enough userbase. Offer Sky the choice of putting them back on the EPG at Sky's own expense.

    I'd even support encryption using a standard CAM if it helped get more channels on board.


    Gav
     
  2. Rasczak

    Rasczak
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    I have to admit I too am very interested in the proposed 'independent' Freesat service (I appreciate the term Freesat is a Sky term but it sums up the proposed BBC offering). A satellite service that is not tied to Sky hardware and that offers sufficient bandwidth for high def services is very tempting.

    I think this is looking fairly certain by now - and likewise for the other terrestial Freeview channels (although E4 might be withheld until contracts allow).

    I think the core aim of the proposed Freesat service is to ensure their is sufficient bandwidth for development, i.e. more channels, possibily 5.1 broadcasts but specifically High Def services. With regard to more channels there is no reason why the current Freesat channels that aren't available on Freeview won't be able to be received. However I do doubt whether channels currently benefiting from a subscription service will jump to Freesat unless it takes off massively.

    Yes - like they have done fore Freeview. However (IMHO) it will be harder to market Freesat as:
    - alot of people do not want a satellite dish
    - there will still be an installation fee
    ...the ideal people it will be aimed at is those who are tired of paying for Sky.

    I think this is a foregone conclusion. The BBC have made no secret of the fact that their proposed Freesat service is being developed primarily for that reason.

    Why not? Both Sky and Freesat services are going to be offered via the same satellites. This means those with Sky will still benefit from the Freesat services but those who do not want to pay for subscription TV will still have a decent choice. To not do this would put the viability of the entire service in doubt.

    As above really - not a good idea. Freesat should offer to aim both to subscription TV viewers as well as the Freesat market. It'll be quite interesting to see what effect Freesat will have on Sky's long term prospects...
     
  3. Starburst

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    Unless they can get CH4 and Five to pull out of their contract with SKY and get FTA Dsat rights for all their current and future programming I can not see any sense in the BBC or ITV spending money on freesat in the short term.
    Even with the big 4 broadcasters on board Dsat distribution is never going to come anywhere near the levels of DTT let alone SKY, the UK simply does not have a need for it or the history of using that method unlike a number of other EU nations.

    Of course we all know that DTT is limited and won't get much better even with some extra capacity after analogue shutdown which makes Dsat an attractive avenue to explore for those bandwidth hungry services such as HD.
    However it would be commercial and political suicide for the BBC and other commercials channels to offer HD and not make it accessible via SKY hardware and I suspect given a workable freesat EPG then OFCOM could be convinced that the charges for SKY's version should be significantly reduced.

    Lets face it anything freesat can offer SKY can counter if they choose to and for commercial broadcasters money talks, after all they do not have the luxury of a £2.5 Billion annual windfall to prop them up and make these grand gestures so easy:)
     
  4. Nick_UK

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    I agree. Whilst everyone has a TV aerial, not many people will have the necessary dish to pick up the new service, and it's beyond the scope of most people to install a dish. So the only customers that will be attracted to the service are disgruntled Sky viewers, and a few people who will pay to have a dish installed. Since you can already get all the FTA channels with a Sky box and Freesat card, I don't see the point of moving to the new service.
     
  5. gavan

    gavan
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    I'm not sure of the deals that the FTV broadcasters have with Sky, but I doubt that it would be too hard for the FTVs to go FTA. There would be problems of course if they had agreed to be part of a Sky package (like was the case with E4). The worst that could happen is they have to pay to go on the EPG (or pay more) but if the Free DSAT service attained a critical mass the various participants could go to Sky and say "include us on your EPG if you like, but we aren't going to pay for it".

    As for using satellite for TV distribution - well, there are something like six million households out there already on Sky, aren't there? Which means the dish is in place, pointing in the right direction on a great many homes already. If the channels are FTA then they can be received on any Sky digibox - better of course if Sky decide to add them to the EPG.

    Of course, now people would have the option of ditching their proprietary Sky gear and choosing from a decent range of kit made by different manufacturers. It's a much better situation for consumers.


    Yes - HD is where satellite really comes into it's own. Plus of course, it's the only way to offer 100% coverage of the UK so that (theoretically) everyone can get digital TV.

    My idea would be to offer Sky the option to put the SD channels on their EPG if they wanted to (but they'd have to do it at their own cost for ALL the channels on the free service). Keeping HD, at least initially, for the Free service would be the carrot to get people to take it up. Also of course, Sky need to be prevented from getting a stranglehold on HD broadcasting.

    Again, maybe Sky could put the HD channels on their own EPG if they agreed to carry the costs AND keep them completely free (ie no need to have an active sub of some kind).




    It's not a case of grand gestures or 'competing' with Sky, per se. It's about offering consumers the ability to receive a good range of SD and HD programming completely free of charge on gear that they chose. Sky are very welcome to offer a pay service on top of that if they actually can provide a quality product that people are willing to pay extra for. That was the idea of Sky in the first place, but now they've become a controlling power in the digital satellite market full stop.

    As things stand, Sky are charging sky-high prices for not a lot IMO, because they've managed to prevent serious alternatives from emerging. HD looks to be even worse - I doubt if it will be possible to get Sky HD for less than 30 quid a month and then you'll only have a limited range of material to chose from.

    If the terrestrial networks got their act together and started DSAT broadcast of HD material where available on top of a popular SD DSAT service, we could all benefit from HD and the format would have a much better chance of becoming quickly adopted. Letting Sky lead the way means the consumer being ripped off from day one and the format being strangled at birth.


    Gav
     
  6. Starburst

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    CH4 and Five signed long term contracts with SKY and unless they can buy themselves out they will have to remain encrypted until 2008 I believe.
    They will also need to buy the appropriate broadcast rights for FTA Dsat distribution, ITV who have gone through this process said it was a long and drawn out process and it's something both CH4 and Five will have to start now if they intended to maintain their current program lineup.
    I can't help but think that E4 remaining encrypted on Dsat actually smooths out some broadcast issues that CH4 have with some previous contracts.

    Exactly who is going to pay for the freesat EPG then?
    Should the BBC license fee subsidise the commnercial broadcasters who will be on it or should they pay part of the running costs as they do with the SKY EPG?



    SKY have over 8million households (7.8 PAY and 200,000+ freesat).
    Every single FTA channel that could go on freesat is already on the SKY EPG, every single new channel that could be created will be on the SKY EPG, no broadcasters is going to turn their back on SKY's userbase.
    It's just a question of how much a SKY EPG place costs which at this time is regulated by OFCOM. The existence of the BBC freesat EPG and I suspect it's much cheaper service charge would in all likely hood force OFCOM into reducing the fees SKY can charge therefore benefiting current and future broadcasters.

    The BBC could not remove themselves from the SKY EPG, the political fallout would be huge and given the anti BBC/license fee groups stance would provide them with plenty of ammunition to attack the BBC.
    Commercial broadcasters again simply can not risk not being on the SKY EPG, it is simply too important to ignore but as I said there is a huge opportunity to get the EPG charge vastly reduced.





    I understand were you are coming from but SKY have a legal obligation to keep 101-105 open for the four main broadcasters and have a legal right to charge a fee for their use (plus other services) this is regulated by OFCOM.
    Yes it would be easy for the BBC/ITV to refuse to be on the EPG but there would political ramifications especially when there is already a mechamism to set the price SKY can charge.
    Now I don't know what the BBC charter specifies in regards to making the BBC channels accessible on all platforms and it may be that there is nothing to force the BBC to be on the SKY EPG but there is simply no getting away from the fact the BBC have used the SKY EPG for nearly 8 years and unilateral removal would cause the proverbial S**t to hit the fan.
    The BBC by their very nature are more vulnerable due to public opinion/pressure than SKY especially when SKY have an OFCOM approved method of EPG allocation and pricing.

    As for HD well I don't expect that to feature on Freesat next year.
    The freesat platform will be based on cheap FTA receivers using the DVBS standard software (sorry don't know the name for the Mheg (DTT) equivalent).
    It has to be cheap otherwise it isn't an alternative to Freeview or in some cases the only other option for UK digital take up.
    HD FTA receivers are simply too expensive and in short supply not to mention the fact that the BBC have made no committment to HD broadcasting in 2006 and the other channels have said sod all about HD.

    The BBC will I expect conform to the EBU standards exactly the same as SKY is doing (H.264 720p/1080i 50hz) and therefore any future FTA HD broadcast will be accessible with SKY badged hardware.
    It's just a matter of making sure that their is a place on the SKY EPG which there will be and probably far cheaper than the current prices.
    In fact I would say SKY would go out their way to get the BBC into HD and would I expect love to see some BBC content when SKY HD launches early next year.
    I would be beyond foolishness to cripple the UK FTA HD market by preventing SKY hardware from accessing it since lets face it SKY will have an established userbase (not a big one granted:) ) all of who pay the BBC license. Why should people have to buy two expensive HD recievers when the major broadcasters are using the same formats?

    I personally don't think SKY will get a strangle hold on HD broadcasts (Well PAY services probably) but it's upto the FTA broadcasters to offer an alternative not to split the market.

    The alternative is simple, broadcast FTA and support both the DVBS standard and the SKY proprietery systems which has already mentioned won't be too expensive.





    There has never been a need for a FTA broadcaster to do a deal with SKY, you can broadcast FTA to the UK and not pay SKY a penny.
    However SKY have created a service which allows every SKY viewer to see a channel without having to do anything and comes complete with a 7 day listing all for a nominal (in TV terms) fee.
    It is not SKY's fault that other companies have not been willing or seen the need to do the same however the BBC/ITV are now planning on moving into the Dsat arena although the ideas are half baked if they don't include CH4/Five.

    Given the existence of freesat some time in 2006 I just don't expect there to be any obvious change from the viewers point of view. The FTA channels on the SKY EPG will remain there, ITV will go FTA and remain on the SKY EPG it's just that they will also appear on the freesat EPG (at what cost is unknown).
    There will be some standard FTA receivers sold but not in any significant number thanks to the presence of SKY and the lack of CH4/Five, the system simply does not compare well the potential DTT had.





    So it all comes down to the subscription prices, silly me I thought you had opinions based on principles of fair competition:)

    Now back to your main point, SKY are charging peanuts for EPG placement and regional mapping, seriously if a broadcaster can not pay £85,000 a year then they should not be in the business. In fact many people consider it's too cheap to broadcast these days that's why the market is saturated with quiz and shopping channels:)

    SKY are a PAY service, if you want FTA HD then you will have to rely on the BBC (who want increases in the license fee to fund HD) and the other commercial broadcasters. Nothing SKY is doing is preventing FTA HD infact thanks to SKY High Def is getting kick started, they more than anyone by setting out their plans have forced the market to adopt a HD display standard and now the ball is rolling.

    I don't expect to get SKY HD for less than £50 a month but SKY are putting their money were their mouths are so it's upto the BBC, NTL/TW, BT to follow suit.



    Yep we can all dream:)
    What makes you think ITV, CH4 and Five have any interest in HD?
    There is no new audience to pull in and therefore no new revenue to be generated by spending tens of millions on HD production and broadcasting.
    Commercial broadcasters makes decisions based on money, without government pressure for HD they are not going to spend serious money on HD on Dsat or other platforms.

    I have to say I don't share you view on SKY HD, I am not talking about the cost of the subscription but I do not see how SKY launching a HD service based on EBU standards to be anything but good news for the UK.
    The userbase that would create would give other commercial broadcasters a way in and possible return which otherwise may never exist if it was left to them alone. The BBC are free to broadcast HD on Dsat but are not allowed to invest license fee money in making STB's and creating a HD platform by subsidising other broadcasters via direct payment or subscription.

    The bottom line is the SKY are spending the money on HD content, platform, STB's etc and will launch next year and this gives the BBC a userbase to broadcast HD FTA for a nominal fee and AT THE SAME TIME allow all their HD broadcasts to be picked up by a FTA HD reciever since the BBC will be broadcasting using EBU standards.

    HD has got to proven to be viable, SKY are going to be the first and will make it work thus opening the door for other broadcasters both PAY and Free to enter the market.
    It's not a question of "letting" SKY take the lead, they are the only ones willing to take the risk and should not be criticised for doing so especially when they are supporting EU wide standards and the only proprietery system is the EPG which is not that big an issue based on cost and the likely hood of a seperate DVBS version on FTA HD receivers.
     
  7. Rasczak

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    Which is probably about right - lets assume the BBC launch their new service in 2007 then C4 and C5 joining about 2008 as the new service went mainstream is about right IMHO...

    Who pays for the Freeview one...

    I can't understand why people are trying to turn this into a Freesat v Sky argument. It's not. The Freesat service will be entirely compatible with Sky services. The only difference is if/when people tire of Sky, or if people are willing to have a satellite dish without a subscription, then a slighly larger range of free channels (inc HD programming) will be available to them than if they just had Freeview.

    When Freesat launches it may end up having a negative impact on Sky - especially if people see that most of what they watch is on Free channels - but I doubt it will seriously reduce the Sky subscription base.

    From our perspective as high end AV users it offers the ability to have custom hardware as opposed to Sky devices which is MANY potential benefits - especially in the upcoming age of HDMI and DRM.
     
  8. Starburst

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    By 2008 we'll be seeing the first of the analogue switch offs and I think I am on safe ground in saying that the average analogue hold back may accept a new aerial but won't be rushing out to buy a sat dish:)


    I am under the impression that freesat is a lot closer than that, the BBC website says 2006 and calls it a rival to SKY:)



    I would like to know the answer to that.
    Do the Freeview channels carriage deals with CC/SDN (or whatever they are called now) cover the cost of maintaining the EPG data channel and pay the wages of the people who compile the data or is it a seperate payment to be included since some channels have not been part of Freeview.

    Agreed.
    All the FTA channels will be on both the Freesat EPG and the SKY EPG, doesn't make any sense to do it otherwise it's just a question on how the existence of a viable freesat EPG will impact on the next complaint to OFCOM about SKY's service charges.
    I expect OFCOM to rule in favour of a reduced SKY EPG fee which would be good news for all Dsat Uk channels.

    There are questions on how the Freeview channels that are PAY on satellite will handle the situation since they would have to sacrifice subscription revenue and perhaps other service discounts if they went FTA.
     
  9. rogerh

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    I agree with raczac. It's about Freeview, Freesat and Sky. The issue is to enable everyone to be able to watch the 5 main channels wherever they live in the UK. If people want to subscribe for viewing then it's good to have competition and I believe that Ofcom has failed the consumer by not forcing the 5 main channels to be Free to View on Satellite.
    The viewing of the 5 via satellitte is already possible anyway if you have a Sky card but it is not free and is only available via SKY approved kit. Ofcom should also ensure that all available satellite recievers are able to use the Sky encryption code to permit viewing of the 5 main channels - this will never happen of course as Sky has too much power in the right circles and will not allow access to all manufacturers.
    Choice and competition are always good for the consumer who can then choose what he wants to pay for.
    As to Channels 4 and 5 becoming Free to View, it's not going to happen until they end their Sky contract and so Freesat will remain at half cock until they do.
    I can see a real benefit if the 5 did become Free to View as that would allow us to purchase any satellite reciever we want and get the full benefit of access to all those channels out there that are not on the Sky planner and those beamed from other satellite positions all from one reciver. A bit like we used to buy a Radio and be able to tune accross the wavebands for what we want!!!
     
  10. Starburst

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    If OFCOM ever do get pro-active and force FTA status on CH4/Five they should include digital cable, stupid you have to pay a subcription to watch even the BBC digital channels via cable.

    Yes I know why it is the case just kinda makes a mockery of the issue over Dsat:)

    You would have thought the new digital broadcasting licenses could have covered Dsat FTA broadcasting, use a reduce license fee to encourage FTA broadcasting from the commercial channels as it will require investment and time to make the move.
     

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