March 11, 2008

Freeview Posts Record Growth

Freeview Posts Record Growth Last quarter of 2007

Introduction 

Freeview is owned by a joint venture between the BBC, National Grid Wireless, Sky, ITV and Channel 4. The Guardian reported today that Freeview is now examining the possibility of developing a new generation of set-top boxes that consumers can plug in to their broadband connections. This would enable them to access online services such as the BBC's iPlayer through their television sets.

In its best ever performance, more than 3.8m devices that can receive Freeview were sold in the last quarter of 2007, according to figures to be released today. For the year as a whole 9.7m TVs, set top boxes and personal video recorders were sold that can receive Freeview's more than 40 free to air channels, up 64% on the previous year and also a new record. (Guardian March 11th 2008)

The History of Freeview

Before Freeview was the ill-fated On-Digital from ITV: (BBC October 2002) 

In fact numbers are much less important to Freeview than they were to ITV Digital. The new consortium does not have to sell subscriptions to recoup the cost of premium programmes like ITV Digital's ultimately crippling £315 million deal with the Nationwide League. (Nick Higham BBC)

Emily Bell's Guardian Media column in 2002 entitled: It's Free but will Anyone Want it? made the following comments:

But Forrester's pessimistic ponderings highlighted another conundrum at the heart of Freeview. What on earth is it for? The answer is plugging the digital gap - between those who don't want or can't have or can't afford cable or Sky but will need a new digital television or decoder in order to make it possible for the government to switch off the analogue signal. Undoubtedly one of the key correct decisions about Freeview is that it is free. But then, as Lemony Snicket might warn, there is an ever-present danger that you won't be able to give it away. (My Emphasis)

Freeview Now 

...in the third quarter of last year more than 86% of UK households were so-called multi-channel homes - which includes those still taking Virgin Media's old analogue cable service. (ibid)

The strong take-up of 'free' digital terrestrial TV was also fuelled by sales of flat screen TVs with built-in digital TV decoders. Last week, department store group John Lewis reported that it sold more flat screen TVs - the vast majority of which include digital TV decoders - over the festive period than it had in 2006. (ibid)

Faced with the possibility of losing television altogether, digital refuseniks have been caving in and buying a new TV or set-top box. With the market reaching saturation point, Freeview reckons its future growth is likely to come from sales of Playback branded devices. Like personal video recorders from Sky and Virgin Media, Playback allows users to pause or rewind live TV and record an entire series with the push of a single button.

"Clearly looking at TV as a whole and the way that the technology is moving, integrating internet-provided TV with broadcast-provided TV has to be the shape of things to come," said Howling.  (General manager of Freeview). 

Recent Information on Freeview Channels Viewership

The Launch of 'Dave' on Freeview

Chris Tryhon Guardian Media reporter 24th October 2007 

Dave's debut week makes it the fifth biggest channel - discounting the five analogue terrestrial channels - among all multichannel viewers over 16.

ITV2 tops the list with a 1.93% share, followed by E4 (1.61%), ITV3 (1.6%) and Sky Sports 1 (1.42%). Channels below Dave include BBC3, Living, UKTV Gold and Sky One.

Among ABC1 males and 16- to 44-year-old males, only Sky Sports 1 outranks Dave in the multichannel ratings outside the big five of BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel Five.

This appears to vindicate UKTV's strategy of rebranding UKTV G2 to Dave and focusing on a young male audience by offering a mix of comedy and factual entertainment programming.


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