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May 27 2009

We’ve just been advised that Alba Group’s next consignment of Freesat SD boxes (Grundig, Goodmans and Bush) have failed pre-release testing, therefore it is suggested that there will be no further availability of Freesat SD units until late June / early July.

Are other manufacturers missing an opportunity here? We think so. Surely it wouldn’t take too much investment in time and money for an existing manufacturer such as Humax or Metronic to develop an SD version and cash in whilst Alba Group are having difficulties.

Freesat is promoted on the basis of HD as well as “free from subscription” digital TV, but there are already approx. 80,000 SD boxes in customers homes so demand is most certainly there for a cheap alternative to a HD spec’d receiver.

The question of SD receiver availability was posed to Freesat in a recent FAQ session; it will be interesting to see what their take on this situation is.

21 Responses to “Are Manufacturers Missing An Opportunity?”

  1. Wouter Says:

    If it takes a year to sell 80k SD boxes by 3 manufactures, I would argue there is not much money into it for Humax/Metronic to quickly develop a box, which is not future proof (i.e. no HD support), especially if it is just to cover the next, say, 3 months lack of supply.

    What should happen, is open up the market for the HD boxes, so the likes of Topfield can join as well. We need competition on the high end PVRs, so prices can be brought down that way.

    People spending a £1000 on a full HD tv, and then trying to save £50 on an SD box over an HD box don’t make much sense to me.

    (now we only need to Freesat to get more HD channels in their offerings)

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  2. ChrisK Says:

    The only reason I have FreeSat is for HD viewing. Unless FreeSat can add more HD channels to their line up it’s going to die. Unless your one of the 2% who cannot get Freeview then SD FreeSat is a complete waste of time so why bother with SD receivers.

    If we get (and yes I know it’s a big if) ITV HD, CH4 HD, Five HD plus BBC HD (a proper BBC HD channel would be nice) on Freeview next year then I can see
    FreeSat going the way of On Digital be it HD or SD. FreeSat has one advantage and that is capacity and even that they are struggling with.

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  3. admin Says:

    Unless your one of the 2% who cannot get Freeview

    Freeview coverage is 75%, so 25% don’t have access to digital TV without satellite.

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  4. Fluffy Says:

    Of the 25% without Freeview, how many have access to Virgin Media? There’s more ways to get digital than that.

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  5. Tony Says:

    If you cannot get Freeview you are extremely unlikely to get Virgin media. Cities and major conurbations are the main beneficiaries of the cable systems. SD boxes are more likely to be used by those who are late comers to the digital switchover or those like me who use it for additional sets or who couldn’t give a toss about HD telly as long as the picture is good and SD is perfect for that.

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  6. ChrisK Says:

    Admin 3.

    When 75% coverage is quoted is that land mass or population??

    Tony 5.

    Yes I agree SD (with good bit rate) is good but HD is muchmuch better in fact I have got to the point where I won’t bother to watch a programme if it’s not in HD because the SD picture is so drab. If people have brought HD Ready TVs because their area has gone digital only, then it’s a bit silly to watch SD pictures on it if HD is available at little extra cost as buying a flat panel TV with built in Freeview has very little advantages over a CRT TV + Freeview box other than to use with HD transmissions.

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  7. Oyodi Says:

    I agree with ChrisK, especially if you have a large TV of 42” and above then the difference between the SD & HD picture quality is astronomical.
    The only reason for the SD boxes is for people with the old CRT TV’s , if you have spent out on a new HD TV then the SD boxes are pointless.

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  8. Boingle Says:

    I think Humax have enough on their plate! The Foxsat HD is brilliant, however the Foxsat HDR leaves a lot to be desired, and I would rather they devoted all their effort to fixing that before they start developing a less popular SD box.

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  9. John_M Says:

    Just because there are a lot of people willing to buy an HD box to access a very small amount of HD programming, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for the SD version.

    The freesat boxes are still in the development stage. Who knows what problems might be round the next corner. Who really knows what features freesat might start building into it boxes?

    How many people have tested the ethernet connection on their freesat boxes to make sure they are working and able to access the proposed iplayer feeds…

    Anyone who is sitting there thinking they have sunk £150-£300 into “future-proof” technology should actually be sat there thinking “I hope this gamble pays off” ;o) Though for those people, its now a none issue because they’ve already sunk their money. The question will be when its time to “upgrade” will they be as quick to part with their cash…

    You don’t have to look back too far to see examples of domestic audio/visual equipment that certainly weren’t future proof eg. HD DVD’s, Blu Ray players, Freeview set top boxes.

    Anyway, I’m off to watch ITV HD on my PC :o)

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  10. Paul Johnston Says:

    Based on our experience 17 miles from Central London the 75% is being able to receive some channels – We can get BBC1-3 clearly and ITV1-4 well but because out local transmitter is got giving out freeview we get a slice of the Crystal Palace signal.. Whilst I accept that HD is the way forward we wont be upgrading for smoetime and a good SD box is what we are looking for… I cant seem to find one!

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  11. fluffy Says:

    Peterborough has Virgin Media and no Freeview

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  12. Geoff Miller Says:

    We are a retailer and when we could get hold of them, the SD boxes were one of our most popular products. It worked out a similar price for a freesat box and installation as it does for a digital aerial install and a freeview box and you get more channels with freesat and more capacity for channels by satellite as apposed to freeview via an aerial.

    Also if someone moved into a house with a sky dish and no digital aerial, it’s a no brainer for quick, cheap digital TV – for £50 you could have all of those free channels – far cheaper than having an aerial installed.

    PS We have been told by our suppliers that Metronic do have an SD box in development currently

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  13. admin Says:

    PS We have been told by our suppliers that Metronic do have an SD box in development currently

    This is incorrect, Metronic discussed a possible SD box with Freesat a few months ago but Freesat decided not to proceed despite Metronic being very keen. There isn’t expected to be any more SD manufacturers.

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  14. Les Nicol Says:

    Surprised that UK company Technomate haven’t yet come forward with a “Freesat” box. They have an excellant range of FTA and HD receivers. They are quality products and competative on price. Manhattan another UK designed range again with pedigree. Both these UK companies have picked up a range of awards any are quoted positively by “What Satallite” — comments from Admin would be welcome

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  15. admin Says:

    Les, we know of discussions that have taken place regarding Technomate potentially adding the required software for Freesat to a range of receivers, but not sure if any decision came of it. If it happens, it might be an exclusive offering through a select distributor/retailer but we’ll announce more should progression be made. No news on Manhattan though.

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  16. Al (Original) Says:

    Considering 80% of sales are of HD boxes, and HD boxes do SD also, they should simply pull sales of SD boxes.

    After all, everyone that’s likely to buy an SD box is going to have a HD telly within the next couple of years anyway (as most SD tvs are probably reaching the end of their lives and all new tvs for a while now have been HD ready or full HD spec’ced), so its actually saving people money although some might not realise it yet. Its also going to make the switch to further HD content easier.

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  17. John_M Says:

    @ Al (Original)

    I see you’re not one who values consumer choice then :o)

    Didn’t Joinfreesat’s straw poll suggest that 75% of the HD receivers (not counting the panny tv’s) were Humax?

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  18. Fortec Says:

    We are benefitting greatly due to this gap in the market. We have a range of SD products thorough Maplins that not only have the channels preloaded but are a lot less expensive than the Alba box. Ranging from £40-£55 with various options from RF mod to HDMI upscaling.

    We are finding there is a distinct trend to SD boxes to compliment the HD box that is usually fixed at the main TV point in the home.

    Cheers

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  19. TyroneJ Says:

    I’ve picked up the second gen Grundig GUFSAT02SD from argos in the last 2 days, i doubt its failed any testing if they’re being sold. Its very basic, no ethernet, 1x scart, 1x lnb in, but it’s working rock solid without the issues the original one seemed to have.

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  20. admin Says:

    The main batch sea-bound failed testing, Argos had some flown in to meet immediate demand.

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  21. Rob Says:

    Manufacturers should look to developing FTA (free to air) satellite receivers with and without HD, rather than rely on Freesat. PC HD satellite S/S2 receiver cards have been around for quite a while, and now have quite well developed software that gets each channels schedule from the channel itself, rather than a Freesat EPG (or Sky for that matter).

    As there are no S2 transmissions currently on the satellites around 28E (their situation in space), these cards are about as future proofed as you can get. And, of course, if you invest in a motorised dish you have even greater channel choices then you could possibly use, and more technically advanced HD services than those offered by the Sky/Freesat/UK FTA services.

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