Bal Samra, Chairman of Freesat, said the service had become “a force to be reckoned with” since its launch in 2008, and suggested the next-generation guide, called <free time>, was a “great step forward, offering more vibrancy and choice. “The UK TV market must operate on a level playing field if it is to encourage innovation, ensure freedom of choice and provide good value to consumers. I believe Freesat offers just that,” he said.
At the heart of the initiative is a backwards TV guide letting viewers turn back time and watch programmes that have already been on, but they may have missed. There is also an ‘at a glance’ Now & Next view to show what’s on the minute viewers sit down. A new Showcase section offers recommendations on programmes to watch tonight, in the coming week and on demand.
Freesat already offers On Demand TV from BBC iPlayer and ITV Player with 4OD and Demand 5 set to launch before Christmas, while an improved recordings facility is designed to make it even easier to record TV at a touch of a button and find episodes automatically filed into series – similar to a DVD boxset.
Emma Scott, Managing Director of Freesat, suggested the next-generation of Freesat boxes would make watching TV by satellite “even better”, noting that technology standards such as HTML5, HbbTV and OIPF had made the barriers to entry for programme providers and manufacturers far lower.
“The technology of the web is coming to set-top boxes,” she declared. “This multitude of different approaches should mean lower prices over time and more choice for consumers.” She revealed that Freesat was already in the process of developing a Freesat app for smartphones and tablets in both iOS and Android act to as remote control as well as allowing the viewer to find content. “Watch this space,” she advised.
The next generation Freesat+ boxes join the existing range of Freesat digital satellite HD boxes and integrated HDTVs and will be available to buy from John Lewis, Currys, Comet and other retailers and online later in September. Set top box manufacturer Humax is producing the first new box with <free time> and will be priced at £279 (€352). Boxes from Sagemcom, Philips and Manhattan will follow.
Connecting the box to home broadband will power the backward TV guide, give access to On Demand and the full Showcase. Scott confirmed that Freesat is also planning to launch additional movie and music services in the future.