Arqiva withdraws from Digital UK shareholding
December 1, 2020
By Colin Mann
Digital UK, the joint venture which leads the operations and strategy of UK DTT platform and Freeview service, has confirmed that broadcast network infrastructure and transmission services provider Arqiva will stand down as a shareholder in the Company from March 2021.
The remaining shareholders – the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 – will now have an opportunity for greater collaboration in how viewers find public service programming in the connected world, whilst remaining committed to working with the wider industry to ensure that Freeview remains a competitive and open hybrid TV platform.
Arqiva has been involved in the development of Freeview since its launch over 18 years ago and has been a shareholder in Digital UK since 2005. The agreement means that Arqiva will withdraw from its Board involvement in Digital UK, which leads the day-to-day management of the DTT platform as well as the long-term strategy and development of the Freeview service. Arqiva will also be withdrawing as a shareholder in DTV Services, the marketing body for the Freeview platform.
While no longer a shareholder of Digital UK, Arqiva will maintain its important role in the Freeview platform, both as an independent national multiplex operator – carrying around half of the channels on the Freeview platform – and as the sole transmission provider for the Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT) platform.
The company has played a significant role in the development of the Freeview service over the years including in the 2015 launch of Freeview Play, the platform’s connected TV service, for which Arqiva built and operates the original metadata management system. It also played a leading role in the programme of infrastructure work required to clear the 700 MHz spectrum band previously used for Freeview services, for use by new 5G mobile services.
Digital UK and its remaining shareholders will continue to work closely with Arqiva and all its partners in the same spirit of collaboration and partnership that has been the hallmark of the platform’s success, including with regard to its role as the operator of the EPG for Freeview.
This will ensure Freeview continues to give British viewers an aggregated collection of live and on-demand content available to everyone in the country, free at the point of use. The principle that everyone in the UK has the right to a great TV service for free, continues to drive development of the UK’s biggest TV platform, serving almost 18 million homes.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Arqiva for all their support for Freeview over the years,” commented Jonathan Thompson, CEO of Digital UK. “They have been an important and valued partner to Digital UK, and without them Freeview would not have been the British success story it is today. We look forward to continuing to work closely together in the future to ensure the platform remains just as compelling for British viewers in the future.”
“Arqiva has been a member of Digital UK since it was founded in 2005 and we are proud of the role we have played in making Freeview such a successful platform, serving the needs of around 18 million TV households on a daily basis,” added Shuja Khan, Chief Commercial Officer of Arqiva. “Freeview’s delivery of free-to-air, universal and high-quality content must continue, with the emphasis on universal. While we have stepped down as shareholder, we believe in the platform’s future and will continue to deliver and invest in the infrastructure and related services required to provide a wide and growing range of services to our media customers.”
“We remain confident that Digital UK will ensure continued support for all its partners and respect the interests of all multiplex operators and broadcasters. As such, we look forward to continuing to play an important role in the future success of the platform.”