Freeview and Digital UK will develop a new, free connected TV service which will make on-demand TV accessible to viewers on internet-connected smart TVs.
The five-year plan to develop and market Freeview Connect was announced by shareholders the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV on Thursday and the service aims to “make the best of broadcast and on-demand TV available free for everyone.”
The plan was welcomed by digital TV industry association Digital TV Group.
CEO Richard Lindsay-Davies, who was involved in the original launch of Freeview in the early 2000s and served as commercial director for the launch of FreeSat in 2008, told The Drum: “One of the reasons we welcome it is because it builds on the technology and technical standards that we’ve been working on for a long time, and it’ll provide a simple consumer proposition for free television – but this time not just broadcast, on demand as well.
“It’s a natural extension of this very successful but very simple proposition – and I’m sure those two points are intrinsically linked – to consumers in the UK.”
Lindsay-Davies added that the Digital TV Group would work with Digital UK “as it plans the technical evolution” of the service.
Announcing the plan, managing director of Connected TV at Digital UK Ilse Howling said the company was well placed “to develop the next generation specification and work with the supply chain to support a new, mass market service to make connected TV available free, for everyone.”
The move has raised questions over the future of YouView – which the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are also shareholders in alongside BT and Talk Talk – amid claims that the competing service could signal the demise of YouView, which has struggled to shift set-top boxes due to cost and has faced criticism for its BT and Talk Talk subscription bundles.
However, Lindsay-Davies argued that while there may be some service crossover, both propositions still held their own unique appeals.
“YouView has a very particular role,” he said. “Even though I would imagine that any connected TV proposition from Freeview would be available on set top boxes as well, it’s really trying to ensure that it’s available on every television set as well, and YouView hasn’t really targeted that, it’s a slightly different proposition.
“I don’t think they compete, they probably overlap a little bit but I don’t think they largely compete.”
He added: “There’s a role for Freeview to play in extending what’s a very successful broadcast proposition to the on-demand space and I don’t think it’s any more complex than that. For Freeview it’s about keeping it incredibly simple and without a contract, whereas the majority, 97 per cent or higher, of YouView homes are also subscribing to BT broadband or Talk Talk broadband services.”
YouView announced plans last month to increase its staff by more than 50 per cent and use new products in a bid to compete with Sky’s pay-TV service. Shareholders injected a minimum amount each and the additional investment was expected to be driven by BT and Talk Talk.