Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Telegraph thinks that Freesat launches with just one channel?!

FreeSat logo

According to yesterday’s (Daily) Telegraph, Freesat will launch this week. (Today at 12.30pm, according to various websites.)

Freesat = a kind of Freeview for satellite, so you pay for the set top box and dish installation, but after that the service and channels are free. Around 98% of households in the UK will fall within the satellite’s footprint (though you will need line of sight upwards towards the satellite - Astra 2 at 28.2° East - and be allowed to mount an external dish). So it's a good alternative in advance of digital (terrestrial) switchover if you want to receive extra digital TV services but can't get all (or any) of Freeview.

Update - PS, not much success tracking down a freesat box in Belfast on launch day.

Oh, and when it’s not at the start of a sentence, freesat is terribly modern and has a small ‘f’.

Back to the Telegraph ...

ITV chairman Michael Grade and BBC director-general Mark Thompson will this week unveil the broadcasters’ long-awaited free-to-air satellite service. Freesat, as the joint-venture service has been called, is seen as a key weapon in the broadcasters’ fight against the might of BSkyB.

However, it will have an inauspicious start, launching with just one channel. The channel, BBC HD, will offer a selection of the broadcaster’s shows in a high definition (HD) format.

Mr Grade and Mr Thompson are expected to promise a clutch of other channels in time for the summer, screening many shows in HD - which offers much sharper pictures.

Viewers who pay GBP 150 for the dish, box and installation should be able to watch the Olympics, Wimbledon and the Euro 2008 football championships in HD, provided they have an HD-ready TV set.

By the summer, the service will also promise to carry some major US hit shows in HD, such as ITV1’s Pushing Daisies and BBC2’s Heroes.

The FAQ on the (not-yet-updated-for-launch) freesat website is a bit more up beat …

How many channels will I get?

Because freesat is delivered via satellite, there’s a huge range of TV, radio and interactive services to choose from with more than 80 channels.

You won’t be overwhelmed by all these channels – we’ve organised them into easy-to-use categories with our freesat on-screen guide, so you’ll easily find what you want at the press of a button.

Did the Telegraph (a bastion of journalism) get it slightly wrong? Would Michael Grade (currently at ITV) turn up to launch a single BBC service? Did they really mean to say that it’ll launch with just one HD channel, but 79 standard definition channels?

Or does the Telegraph know something shocking that no one else is talking about?

Update - Freesat-branded set-top boxes come with ethernet sockets which will shortly be enabled to offer viewers access to broadband internet content, including iPlayer and the (future) commercial Kangaroo service. (BT Vision boxes currently hook up to the web to offer QoS-enabled IPTV streamed content, and Sky+ are planning to offer online access shortly too.)


Timothy Belmont said...

I definitely want HDTV. But I've heard conflicting reports about Freesat only being available to those whose terrestrial channels have been switched off; so we might have to wait till 2012 for the Complete Experience.
I may yet opt for the largest Panasonic LCD TV because it uses a lot less energy consumption.

Decisions, decisions...


Timothy Belmont said...

We have a sky satellite dish; I wonder if we'd just need to buy an HD receiver box and HDTV...?

Alan in Belfast said...


The transmissions from the Astra2D satellite cover all of the UK - freesat's marketing suggests that 98% of households should be able to be able to receive freesat from today.

Part of their offering is to give people with poor terrestrial signal reception (normal TV or Freeview) or with no access to Freeview until a late switchover date (like Northern Ireland in 2012) much earlier access to a greater range of digital TV channels with no subscription payment.

So without a HD-ready TV, should be able to use a SD (Standard Def) freesat set-top box to see the channels on their normal TV. And with an HD-enabled freesat box, and an HD-ready TV, they should be able to enjoy the enhanced HD content from BBC, ITV, C4 and anyone else who eventually launches on the freesat service.

We've an old Sky dish on the front of the house - from the previous owners - so I'm tempted to get the cheapest freesat box and plug it in. Though none of the boxes released today have hard disk recorders. Looks like it'll be June/July before the more advanced boxes are on sale.

Alan in Belfast said...

> I've heard conflicting reports about Freesat only being available to those whose terrestrial channels have been switched off; so we might have to wait till 2012 for the Complete Experience.

That's the issue with Freeview not Freesat. The HD channels on Freeview will only become available in each area of the UK after digital switchover - which frees up enough analogue spectrum to run all the necessary digital multiplexes.