Freeview bosses warn of SVoD challenge

The companies responsible for UK free-to-air DTT platform Freeview have called on industry and policy makers to ‘step up’ to meet the profound changes in television being driven by American tech firms.

Guy North, Freeview’s Managing Director, and Jonathan Thompson, Digital UK’s CEO, told delegates at the Outside the Box industry event in London that there was an “urgent” need to respond to challenges posed by the likes of Amazon, Google and Apple.

According to North, an explosion of choice was leaving many people confused about how to get the programmes they want.  “Consumers don’t care whether shows come through an aerial, a dish a cable or a pipe – they just want to watch it how and when they want,” he said. To this end, he revealed a new online Freeview ‘Bundle Builder’ service as a response to growing demand for skinny bundles based on free TV.

North suggested that Freeview Play was becoming increasingly important in the growth of on-demand viewing. “Today, we’re working with all but one of the leading manufacturers so we’re well on the way to achieving our ambition for Freeview Play to be built into every TV sold in the UK.”

“To ensure that free-to-air television remains at the forefront of the UK’s TV industry broadcasters and policy makers must rise to the challenge and make sure content remains free and universally available whether broadcast, streamed or on-demand.”

Thompson warned that industry was in danger of under-estimating the speed and scale of change coming to UK television and urged action to safeguard British programme-making, public service content and competition. “We have a choice.  We can choose to become a footnote in the quarterly results of Apple or Amazon or we can strive for something better. Our industry needs to lead the charge and act together to strengthen rather than loosen the bonds on which our success was built.  We must go faster and further than ever done before,” he declared.

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