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A Chat With Freesat

Rat

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#1
We are pleased to say that our chat went ahead with Freesat as planned, so thank you to Helen at fireflycomms for arranging, and to Janet Morrow for giving us such a large allocation of time.

Janet Morrow works for Freesat in the capacity of communications. Janet is actually employed and works for the BBC, but has been seconded to Freesat part-time to assist in ensuring accurate information is available to the public domain. Whilst the information we can give is more ‘fact’ than ‘exclusive news’, it does at least settle a few debates and was a very worthwhile conversation. Janet spent as much time going through each question as we needed, going into more detail than asked at times so we very much appreciate it.

Rather than a Q&A, we’ll just give the information as points:

Hardware

The first DTR/PVR receivers should be available in the autumn of this year. Speculation of delays meaning an end of 2008 / early 2009 release are totally unfounded. Humax are the only manufacturer of the DTR/PVR receiver, Alba Group and Panasonic are not involved (very interesting).

No other company (including Pace) are signed up to manufacture Freesat boxes at this time, but naturally if any discussions are happening, they couldn’t be discussed at this time. The question over whether Humax and Alba Group have an exclusivity agreement is being found out for us.

Channels

There is no truth in software issues being the reason for delays in the launch of regional ITV channels or additional FTA channels. Freesat want to make it very clear that because this is the first batch of channels since launch, they are taking extra care to ensure that everything goes technically smooth, as obviously this is now a live product.

All ITV regions and additional FTA channels (including but not limited to, ITV2+1, Film Four+1, E4+1 and More4+1, Zone Horror, Zone Reality, Kix and BET as well as digital radio stations including Capital Radio, ****** Radio and XFM) will be available late July 2008.

Freesat confirmed and openly wish to make clear that an EPG slot on Freesat is £30,000 per year for TV channels and £5,000 per year for Radio channels.

We asked whether empty channels such as 109 and 110 are pre-allocated, or whether it’s a first come first serve basis. Janet was unsure and will find out, but suspects they may be pre-allocated to ensure that specific genres are placed within certain channel ranges.

Freesat still believe that close to 200 channels will be available by the end of the year. They couldn’t comment on whether any FTA channels (other than those mentioned above) are signed up already, only that discussions are taking place.

It’s not Freesat’s intention to mirror Freeview’s channels in any way. They treat digital terrestrial and digital satellite as two very different platforms as different regulations and agreements are in place. They know that gaining existing subscription channels like Dave, UK History etc will be almost impossible due to the way in which they are funded.

Freesat’s official statement on channel FIVE being available on the platform is “definatly in 2008″. Whilst Freesat didn’t comment, FIVE has said that FIVER and FIVE US won’t be.

Freesat have no indication of if/when C4 HD will be available on the platform. Given that they’ve made it clear that FIVE will be on Freesat this year, it would suggest that C4 HD hasn’t been agreed, or won’t happen this year. They couldn’t comment on C4 HD’s existing Sky contract or the reasons why C4 HD have not created a duplicate channel in the same way as C4. They do however see C4 HD as an important addition to the Freesat platform, as the more HD content the better.

We really needed to speak to the broadcasters directly, but Freesat’s understanding of the further production of HD content from BBC HD and ITV HD is ongoing. BBC HD will have 300 hours of Olympics this summer, as well as Wimbledon. ITV HD have said they will start with major sporting events (i.e. Euro 2008), followed within 2008 by premium movies and premium dramas.

Alba Group’s lack of ‘add channel’ functionality is not the responsibility of Freesat, nor was it requested as part of Freesat’s original tech spec. They are however working closely with Alba Group to ensure that this is implemented within the next few weeks. Both parties are aware of the EU regulations to provide, and are working to resolve.

We asked when ITV HD will be available in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Freesat say soon, but must stress that the decision to incorporate ITV HD was given to all ITV companies, of which both NI and Scotland chose not to accept.

Whilst Freesat wouldn’t say never, they did say that ITV HD must remain an interactive service, not a full channel. The official statement given to Freesat by ITV was that regulations mean that ITV HD as an individual channel is not commercially viable. Freesat are going to find out more on this, as they were only provided a single line statement. Freesat are adamant that ITV HD has launched as an interactive service for this very reason, and not to offer Freesat a HD advantage over Sky to encourage its early day uptake.

General

Freesat will continue to allow Sky to use the word “freesat” in their promotions of their own free service. They do not believe that both platforms using the name will cause any confusion (this is a point we may need to blog separately about at a later date once Freesat has been in the market for 6 months or so).

Freesat do not see their service as overtaking or replacing Freeview, nor as a competitor to Sky; they see it as a choice for the general consumer.

No official figures on the uptake of Freesat are available. Any indications given on the web are pure guess work.

Freesat are not aware of an issue with emailing visitors to their old site who wanted updates on the release. We explained that there must be thousands who didn’t receive and only a handful that did. They are going to find out for us.

Another burning question we and many of you wanted to know was what advertising is in place, or will be in place to promote Freesat to the masses. The answer in no uncertain terms was not very much. However, Janet did explain the reasons why. Freesat have a very small marketing budget which doesn’t allow them enough funds to promote the service in its own right via television media. They are promoting on radio and in national press, but are relying on associated companies like retailers etc to put the brand name across. Freesat made particular mention to Panasonic and their efforts to promote not only their new plasma’s, but the Freesat service associated with them. Its Freesat’s intention with the small budget they have to focus on areas where Freeview (terrestrial digital) signal is not available, which is why recent promotions in Wales have taken place, including 10% discounts at Comet etc. Anglia is next for promotional work. ITV television advertising is too expensive, and BBC is unable to promote the Freesat brand due to their unbiased policy. Whilst BBC mention Freesat as part of their recent BBC HD advertisement campaign, they must also mention all other available platforms fairly. Freesat wanted to make clear that Sky’s recent Sky+ campaign likely cost more to advertise than Freesat’s entire annual budget…for everything.

Whilst no breaking news, at least a few points have been clarified which should ease doubts and concerns. Janet was keen to point out that they are working hard to develop the service, and whilst it seems like a long time, it’s only been 6 weeks since launch and its very early days.

Again, we’d like to thank Janet for the time spent talking to us.


Taken From joinfreesat
 

IANB

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#2
Very imformative John.
I thought it was you she was talking to m8 untill i got to the bottom of the post.
They could do worse than advertise on tech forums couldnt they.
Forums like this reach many thousands of eyes so in my view it would be a great marketing platform for them.
 

Rat

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#3
lol sorry Ian :)

I did think it was a good read m8 thats why I posted it,its a good little site for freesat info,it's usually the first for news when it arises :)
 

nohidingplace

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#4
I think she's wrong with confusion between Freesat & S*Y Freesat as it allows the Curry's and Comet's of this world to pull a fast one on the unnitiated Joe Public by selling them Freesat from s*y and not BBC Freesat for want of a better word which is what they probably want as well as installation which they may noit neccesarily need.
 

witchy

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#5
I would like to see the names changed also.

Didn't SKY use the name FREESAT first, so how can the other FREESAT stake claim to it?!

I really hope the new FREESAT does well, atlast some satellite competition for SKY.
 

pinkhelmets

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#6
BBC registered & copyrighted the name first, Sky stole the idea and advertised it first because they have the funds, although they altered it slightly- FreesatFromSky. I just explained this in the other thread below so wont go on about it :).

Anyway, it may cause some confusion and it may mean Currys & Comet can get away with tricking customers, time will tell.
Sky do not actively advertise their Freesat product and do not offer FreesatFS-HD. If people ask about High Definition then the stores should be explaining the bbc/itv service and in theory people will become more educated about satellite tv. If someone has heard about Freesat (in any form) and wants to upgrade to digital tv then either product sold (bbc/itv or sky) will result in the digital upgrade which is what this is all about. More people can watch BBC3, BBC4, ITV2,3,4 etc.

For years, more than 90% of the uk believe 'satellite tv' = Sky and that includes all those shop sales people selling products. If there are now 2 versions of 'free satellite' being sold, the staff will end up having to learn the difference and the customers will possibly end up discovering more :). It may be easy to say Currys & Comet will just get consumers signing Sky contracts, but you have to give the public some credit and I am sure more & more will rapidly understand 'Satellite Tv' = CHOICE.
 
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pinkhelmets

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#9
Yes, and i'm sure the older generation who will be a large target for freesat will get more confused than you. It is awkward, but maybe its part of the plan - people will talk about it more thus better than advertising. Word of mouth can sometimes combat the biggest of advertising budgets, and certainly works with small local business. So we have bbc/itv with basically zero budget vs sky with unlimited funds. Its an interesting time really, the future direction of tv is unwritten.
I also find it interesting at this current time that free digital channels are gaining viewers and advertising revenue, whilst some pay channels are losing both (ie Sky1). Costs for pay channels keep increasing, program content is more expensive to draw in more viewers and the economy isnt in great condition for luxuries like subscriptions.

Its time for change & choice, tell everyone you know the monopoly is finished, Freesat is here! :)
 

Rat

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#10
its eary days for freesat but I love it

I just really hope the channel/HD content builds over coming months
 

nohidingplace

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#11
got a freesat (BBC) for bedroom yesterday (Bush hd),run 2 sky boxes and the new one on quad lnb.

Question, was watching Italy game yesterday on freesat and son watching Italy on Sky+ box how come the Freesat was in front of the Sky one i.e. penalties transmission delayed by 2 secs behind the freesat.


if u understand wot i mean.
 

witchy

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#12
The Sky box probably does a little bit of buffering to ensure smooth action during pauses/replays etc.