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Freeview unleashes strategy to net pay TV homes


By Jessica Davies, News Editor

February 20, 2013 | 4 min read

Freeview has kicked off an aggressive drive to net some of the Sky and Virgin Media pay TV home customers who aren't maximizing their subscriptions.

The free TV service, which is in 19.3 million homes, has launched a TV ad campaign, which claims 95 per cent of the most popular TV shows are available for free via the service. The aim is to raise awareness of what its service offers to “low-end” Sky and Virgin Media customers after a survey it ran highlighted many are not receiving what Freeview deems “value for money”.

The campaign, with creative by Leo Burnett, will launch this Friday (22 February) across Channel 4, ITV and UKTV and will be accompanied by digital, radio and cinema ads, all of which will direct people through to its campaign site where they can find out more about what will suit their needs.

The move marks a departure from Freeview’s historical campaign focus, which has traditionally centred on customer retention rather than acquisition, according to marketing communications director Guy North. “In this post-analogue switchover world we are not getting as many new people to the service therefore focus must be more on acquisition rather than retention alone,” he continued.

According to research conducted across 3,000 consumers by Opinium, on behalf of Freeview and the Post Office between 21 December 2012 and 2 January, the vast majority of respondents were found to be paying for channels they are not watching. It showed £8.1 billion is spent a year on subscription packages, with an average £49 per month spent on combined TV, broadband and TV. However, it estimates that £2.7 billion a year is spent on unwatched pay TV channels, representing £199.32 per home).

Meanwhile a third (34 per cent) of people are "dissatisfied" with their current bundle and 42 per cent of bundle users receive bills that are higher than expected.

It claims over 95 per cent of the most-watched shows in the UK are available for free on Freeview – a fact it is keen to promote. “This is a startling fact that should make people question why they are paying their subscriptions still given nearly all this content is available for free – that is the message that underpins our entire ad strategy,” added North.

Freeview managing director Ilise Howling distanced itself from services like YouView, which is positioning itself as the upgrade to Freeview audiences. “Services like YouView are exciting but I believe some way off being a mainstream product, which Freeview currently is and will continue to be so,” she said.

She also claimed that linear TV remained incredibly resilient despite earlier predictions that it would lose out to online or cross device viewing: “No matter how excited we get about connected TVs linear remains remarkably strong and most people still watch TV live via the main screen, and it will stay that way for some time. The Olympics is a classic example – it was meant to be the first truly connected viewing experience for a major sporting event, but only 1 per cent of total viewing was a non-linear,” said Howling.

Howling also cited HD as one of the primary reasons for people wanting to upgrade their TVs, and said the service is planning to increase its number of HD channels from four to 14 by the end of 2014, subject to Ofcom approval.

Last week it emerged preparations for the launch of 4G mobile broadband signals in the UK could disrupt TV reception for 2.3 million households.

Howling said it would monitor the issue but the work is being managed by a separate body called Digital Mobile Spectrum, jointly owned by the mobile companies.


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