Mines bigger than yours!

One thing thats been clear from the very start is that freesat are intending on launching their service using 60cm dishes, rather than the standard 43cm dishes you see dotted everywhere for Sky TV. We think they’ve done this for the following reasons:

1) It helps differenciate between a Sky TV setup and freesat setup
2) BBC wanted a dish size suitable for all the UK, not just most (some places in northern scotland etc need the larger dish to receive good quality signals)
3) BBC might have got a very good deal on the 60cm dishes
4) freesat are hoping that those unaware think they need a new dish and therefore pay up for an installation they don’t need (assuming freesat make a little profit from the install)
5) With future HD channels launching, do freesat think the load on 43cm dishes will be too much?
6) Kind of associated with number 5, they are just future-proofing the service

We personally think number 1 and 6 are the most likely reasons 🙂

freesat receiver manufacturers confirmed…but are they on board?

The freesat receiver manufacturers are beleived to be Alba, Sagem, Panasonic and Humax. Alba and Sagem were look after the SD receiver market, Panasonic the in-built receiver market (see previous post) and Humax the high end HD PVR unit, however, it would seem that Sagem might not be involved after all. Details are still unclear, but suggestions are that it might be down to costing issues, i.e. freesat wanting to sell the boxes cheaper than Sagems production will allow to gain a profit.

Information has come to light that Goodman might be in the frame for some of the freesat cake, whether the two are linked, who knows!

Do you get the feeling things are going more backwards than forwards! 🙂

Panasonic to include freesat in-built

Panasonic LogoPanasonic have announced that they will be including freesat receivers within their 2008 plasma/lcd’s due out later this year. Similar to how they’ve done with freeview, the new plasma’s will have the freesat service built in, meaning you won’t have to have a seperate box to enjoy the ‘soon to be launched’ new service.

The PZ81 model in sizes 37″, 42″ and 50″ will benefit first from this addition around august time, followed by the LZ81 32″ and 37″ later in the year.

This can only put the point across about how serious manufacturers are about the new freesat service, with Panasonic willing to work towards inclusion of this technology as early as summer this year.

How it stands, freesat versus Sky

The battle for free satellite tv is hotting up, but with what we know, how do things stand? Fair enough its hard to put both platforms to battle before one has even launched, but lets give it a go anyway 🙂

Working on the assumption that freesat are launching a standard receiver only (to begin with), they are going to have to compete with Sky’s existing £150 deal (BBC are presently claiming a £180 price tag) . freesat 0 Sky 1.

The freesat service is likely to have a much more reliable receivers, made from household brands like Humax. Not only will they function better, but they will probably look better too. freesat 1 Sky 1.

The freesat EPG (the channel listings and programme guide) is said to be very flexible, allowing you to tailored to suit your channel preferences, order, region etc. The Sky EPG is fixed and not very user friendly. freesat 2 Sky 1.

C4, C4+1, Five, Five Life, Five US, Sky Three and Setanta Sports News are all FTV channels at present, which means freesat won’t be able to access them. Fair enough the last few aren’t that important to most, but C4 and Five will be. freesat 2 Sky 2.

E4, E4+1, More4 and More4+1 presently remain subscription only channels, which means they can only be gained through a subscription to Sky, starting at £16 per month. As we are focusing on the available ‘free’ channels, whether that be FTA or FTV, we’ll not give Sky a point for that, as it costs to see channels which should be free anyway in my opinion. freesat 2 Sky 2.

So there we have, a draw!

(I’ll throw PVR and HD receivers into the mixing bowl once I have more details on whether they’ll be available from launch!)

When will C4 and Five sign up?

As freesat is a joint-venture between BBC and ITV, naturally it means that their channels will be available on the new service, but what about C4 and Five? Despite what some think, there’s no such rivalry between the networks to prevent them signing up, nothing of the sort, the reason is that they are both presently tied into individual agreements with Sky, as the only available provider of their service via satellite television.

So will C4 and Five be available from launch? It doesn’t seem likely! Our sources tell us that the existing C4 contract, which includes C4, C4+1, C4 HD, E4, E4+1, More4 and More4+1 means they are tied up in contract until Autumn this year. Five, Five Life, Five US and the pending Five HD are in agreement with Sky until early 2009.

So what affect would that have on freesats launch? I’m still questioning whether the freesat launch will happen before atleast C4 get out of their contract! C4 have hinted at leaving the contract early, but can you imagine the implications of this, plus the cost to breach agreement that keeps Sky firmly in control of the satellite market. I can’t see freesat taking off with only 3 of the power 5 channels, can you?

The ‘f’ word!

Freesat LogoWondered why we always use a lower-case ‘f’ for freesat? Well BBC had decided to promote freesat at all times with a lower-case ‘f’. You’ll see this on their website, plus in their official releases. We’ve even been told directly to use a lower-case ‘f’.

Our question is, do you think the merchants promoting their service will follow these guidelines? Do you think BBC/ITV will take any action if they don’t. All seems very strange to us!

freesat FAQ’s

Since the annoucement of freesat, we have heard countless rumours on what to expect, yet still to this day most remain a close guarded secret of those involved. We fortunatly find out certain information before the general public and wanted to share it with you.

Working with the FAQ’s freesat posted on their own site, we have adapated them to give a little more information:

What is freesat?
freesat is a brand new digital satellite TV service, launching in March/April 2008, and available to almost all households across the UK.
For a one-off payment for a digital box, satellite dish and installation, freesat will offer you more than 80 TV channels, including BBC, ITV and many more. If your TV is ‘HD Ready’, freesat will also give you access to the world of High Definition programmes…subscription free!

When will freesat be available?
freesat is due to launch in ‘Spring 2008’, although release has already been delayed twice before now. We would certainly expect this year, but could be anywhere up to ‘Autumn 2008’.

How many channels will I get?
Because freesat is delivered via satellite (i.e. same satellite setup as Sky TV), there’s a huge range of TV, radio and interactive services to choose from with more than 80 channels.
You won’t be overwhelmed by all these channels – we’ve organised them into easy-to-use categories with our freesat on-screen guide, so you’ll easily find what you want at the press of a button.

Where will I be able to buy freesat?
freesat will be available through most major high street retailers, although it is rumoured that a 6 month agreement is in place for Comet, Currys and John Lewis from launch, making them the exclusive official retailers for this product.

How much will it cost?
A one-off payment will get you the lot. You’ll pay for the digital box, the satellite dish and installation. There will be a selection of equipment available with a range of functionality to deliver additional benefits, such as personal video recorders (PVR), high definition (HD) and TVs with freesat receivers built in. NB: You will still need a satellite dish with a TV with freesat receiver.
Prices and products available will be announced closer to launch.

Will there be any ongoing costs?
No! That’s the beauty of freesat – no subscription and no contract – not now, not ever.

Why now, what reason?
The main intention of freesat is to ensure the consumer has choice when it comes to the digital switchover. When the analogue signals switch off, its apparant that quite a large percentage of the UK would have no means of receiving an ‘acceptable’ digital signal from the current ‘Freeview‘ (by aerial) option. freesat via satellite takes care of this, covering the whole of the UK (or most anyway!). The other reason might be to offer a rival service to Sky TV. Whilst freesat is a ‘not for profit’ organisation, its still perceived that Sky TV is a ‘pay-tv’ satellite service only, and not a ‘free’ service too. freesat might be able to capitalise on this to a certain extent.

If I already have a SKY TV setup, can I just purchase the freesat digital box?
Yes! If your existing Sky TV satellite setup is in working order, you’ll just be able to purchase the freesat digital box and plug in, no need for installation by a professional etc.

What about HD?
Watching TV in high-definition (HD) is an incredible experience. With four times as much picture detail as standard TV, HD makes a massive difference to your enjoyment of TV.
The BBC currently has one HD channel, where you can watch live sport, national events, stunning natural history, landmark drama, world-class documentaries and more. ITV will launch its high definition broadcasts of many of its primetime ITV shows in Spring 08, just in time for the launch of freesat. As the HD revolution progresses, more HD channels and services will be added to freesat over time.
Millions of people have already got HD-ready TV sets but until now haven’t been able to access HD programmes for free. freesat will give you high definition programmes, guaranteed free from subscription.
If you have an HD-ready television, or are thinking of buying one, freesat is for you!

Who’s behind freesat?
freesat is a joint venture between the BBC and ITV and comes to you from many of the same people that launched Freeview. freesat came together formally as a joint venture in May 2007, and is funded 50/50 by its shareholders, ITV and the BBC TV. The joint venture is run on a not-for-profit basis.
As TV advances with many more channel choices, interactive services, and high definition TV, these broadcasters want as many viewers in the UK as possible to have access to their new services, such as HD TV. ITV and the BBC believe that viewers should have the choice of accessing all of these services and more, without paying a subscription.

Can I get freesat regardless of where I live in the UK?
Because freesat’s content is delivered via satellite, almost every household in the UK will be in coverage. Only 2% of households will be outside the satellite spacecraft’s footprint.
Some people may not be able to get freesat, for example those households whose satellite dish is not pointing towards the correct satellite, or whose dish can’t be positioned to see the satellite properly – usually if you live at the bottom of a large building, or your satellite dish is blocked by a tall building or other obstruction near you.
If you think you might be in that 2%, once freesat is available you might want to contact your local installer to see if freesat is an option for you.
For the technically-minded amongst you, if you have a 45-60cm dish pointing towards Astra2 at 28.2° East or Eurobird at 28.5° East, you should be able to receive freesat. Note that these satellites are also already in use for existing UK digital-satellite television platforms (Sky TV).

Will I need an aerial upgrade?
No. freesat is not delivered through your aerial but via a satellite dish, so no need for aerial upgrades, but you will need a satellite dish.

What is digital switchover?
Starting in 2008 and ending in 2012, TV services in the UK will go completely digital, region by region. This process is called digital switchover. The UK’s old television broadcast signal (‘analogue’) is being switched off and replaced with a ‘digital’ signal. Any TV set that’s not converted to digital when switchover takes place will no longer be able to receive TV programmes. freesat is a great way to convert to digital TV.

Will it mean my TV will work after digital switchover?
Yes! If you have freesat you will have digital TV, so whichever TV set in your house you connect to, it will be ready for digital switchover.

What if I already have a satellite dish on my house?
If you currently use this dish to receive services such as BBC and ITV (most likely through SKY), then your existing dish is probably suitable for receiving freesat. Once freesat is available you might wish to contact your local installer to see if this will work for you.

Do I need an HD-ready television to watch high definition programmes?
You need an HD-Ready television and an HD digital box in order to view high definition programmes in high definition. You may also need an HDMI lead, but your high street retailer will be able to let you know about this. Once you have the right equipment installed, you can watch live sport, national events, stunning natural history, landmark drama, world-class documentaries and more in amazing HD.
If you haven’t yet got an HD-ready television you can still be prepared for the future by getting a freesat HD digital box. With a freesat HD digital box you can still view HD programmes on your standard definition television but the content will be scaled down to standard definition. If you buy a freesat standard definition box you will not be able to view HD programmes even if you have an HD-ready television.

What about interactivity/red button?
The BBC will offer a wide range of red button services on freesat. From launch you’ll be able to read the latest news and sport stories 24 hours a day, check out what’s happening in the world of business, enjoy entertainment news and quickly access the official lottery results.
From Summer of 2008, you will be able to get a wide range of news in video at any time you want it, with weather information for where you live. During the Beijing Olympics, you’ll be able to choose between coverage of different sports and highlights to get the whole BBC Olympics package.
Coming later will be enhanced coverage of many other sporting and music events, children’s games, plus all of the interactive content you have come to expect from your BBC digital TV channels.

Will freesat have subtitling and audio description capabilities?
All freesat receivers will offer Subtitles and Audio Description, though the menu options for selecting them may differ slightly between manufacturers and models.

Welcome to joinfreesat.co.uk

Freesat LogoWelcome to joinfreesat.co.uk. The intention of this blog is to provide information on the new BBC/ITV freesat satellite TV service due soon. You’ll no doubt have plenty of questions regarding the service, and we hope to answer them as and when information becomes available. Above you’ll find our first meaningful blog, a faq based on the existing knowns about the freesat service.

So why create a blog? Thats easy, freesat is a joint venture between the BBC and ITV. This service ‘will’ (despite being ‘not for profit) go in direct competition against the existing satellite tv service from Sky. The only trouble with this is that neither BBC/ITV nor Sky will make direct reference to each other in their promotions, which in turn means confusion reigns supreme. We have no such morals or legal implications (or hopefully not anyway!).

Enjoy, and welcome to probably the more conclusive freesat blog you’ll find, from experts within the industry.