230 Channels By Early 2009

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In Wotsat’s chat with Emma Scott, Freesat Managing Director, its beleived that 230 FTA (free-to-air) channels should be available by early 2009, but technical issues with Sky are limiting Freesat to launching them in batches.

Emma Scott told Wotsat:

We wanted to launch with them all, but it was not possible. We have got every free-to-air channel that wants to be on Freesat pre-registered already, and we expect to have have the full 230 early next year.

It’s slightly decided by a timetable set down with Sky, which concerns the uplinking arrangements so we do not interfere with their EPG and they do not interfere with ours.

The EPG data is an additional component which is added to the broadcast stream, and they were not able to combine it for all the channels in time for our launch.


We are unclear on exactly what technical issues for FTA channels could cause such delays?

In an interesting twist, Emma has said that there will be one exclusive Freesat channel. Shall we play a game of ‘guess that channel’?
 

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Following on from the discussion below of 230 channels by early 2009, we questioned what the ‘technical issues with Sky’ could be causing for channels to be added in batches. Without requesting a reply, Freesat’s PR agency (whom have been absolutely fantastic since taking over) kindly sent over an explanation, which to be honest, shocked!!! This is what we received:

Due to Sky’s position in the satellite TV transmission, Freesat’s services have to pass through a Sky-controlled stage. In order for Freesat services to be acceptable to Sky at this stage in the broadcast chain, Sky requires all Freesat services previously to have passed through another technical process, managed by Sky, called ‘configuration’. This ensures that the Freesat services’ components meet Sky’s technical specifications.

For the ‘configuration’ process, Sky have specified limits on:
- the number of services they will configure in a month
- the type of services they will configure
- the grouping of services by transponder, and
- the frequency with which they will work on each transponder.

Freesat is obliged to plan its forward launch schedule within these requirements.


So this suggests that Sky have incredible control even over FTA channels becoming available on the Freesat EPG, and should this measure not be in place, its highly likely that all the signed-up FTA channels would already be available on the Freesat EPG. We can only hope that channel FIVE will be fast tracked to take up its position soon, but how do Freesat possibly make the decision on the running order of channels to be added, do they even have a choice, is it first come first serve or at the discretion of Sky? One things for sure, putting all technical issues to one side, this is a good way for Sky to control the market and not allowing Freesat to gather pace too quickly.
 

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Sky responds to Freesat red-tape hold up talk

Sky has responded to suggestions that its red tape is slowing down the process of getting more channels onto the free-to-air service from Freesat.

Cautious comments from Freesat's Managing Director Emma Scott in an interview with What Satellite were exacerbated by a press release from Freesat published on Joinfreesat.co.uk.

But Sky has pointed out to TechRadar that a lengthy checking process is in place to ensure that having two broadcasters (and two electronic programme guides) on one transponder does not interfere with existing viewers.

"Sky is working to configure a number of free-to-air channels so that they are available in both the Sky and BBC/ITV Freesat EPGs via a single satellite transponder, said a spokesperson for Sky.

Freesat data passes through Sky's network

"This means that certain BBC/ITV Freesat data passes through Sky's network, which poses a risk for the operation of both platforms.

"This risk was recognised by the BBC Trust in its approval of the BBC's participation in BBC/ITV Freesat when it stated that the BBC should take "all reasonable steps" to ensure that BBC/ITV Freesat is able to "co-exist with other digital television platforms without impairing their technical operation".

"Sky is therefore focused on minimising the risk of loss of service to the many millions of households already receiving digital television via satellite.

"In managing this risk, Sky and BBC/ITV Freesat have certain agreed processes and procedures in place to ensure a safe and stable environment for the roll-out of more than 200 services."

Response

This came as a direct response to a press release from Freesat that said: "Due to Sky's position in the satellite TV transmission, Freesat's services have to pass through a Sky-controlled stage.

"In order for Freesat services to be acceptable to Sky at this stage in the broadcast chain, Sky requires all Freesat services previously to have passed through another technical process, managed by Sky, called 'configuration'

For the 'configuration' process, Sky have specified limits on:

- the number of services they will configure in a month

- the type of services they will configure

- the grouping of services by transponder, and

- the frequency with which they will work on each transponder.

"Freesat is obliged to plan its forward launch schedule within these requirements."

Response from public

Inevitably the response to this release was hardly positive towards Sky, with the Joinfreesat blog saying: "One things [sic] for sure, putting all technical issues to one side, this is a good way for Sky to control the market and not allowing Freesat to gather pace too quickly."

Sky's response is inevitably measured and matter of fact – but it's probably fair to assume that the company is far from delighted with people drawing the conclusion they are deliberately holding things up.

What Satellite editor, Alex Lane, said: "It makes sense for Freesat to have this arrangement with Sky, but it doesn't look good to consumers who already fear that Sky controls satellite TV. The truth is that Freesat needs a good relationship with Sky, and a public row can't be good."


By Patrick Goss
 

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Any channels that are Freesat only and don't co-exist on a transponder with any channels that are on the Sky EPG shouldn't have this problem. It's fair enough that existing channels that are on the Sky EPG that want adding to the Freesat EPG should ensure they don't interfere with the Sky EPG - it doesn't mean that Sky has excessive influence.

It wouldn't be a problem if Freesat wanted to lease their own transponders for all their channels, but that isn't practical - it would cost a fortune.
 
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