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Sep 29 2008

Freesat, the free digital satellite television service has reached 100,000 sales within just five months of launching on 6th May 2008, having maintained strong, steady growth throughout what has been a tough summer for high street retailers.

In a tough economic climate Freesat are delighted with the figures, suggesting the uptake is a result of free high-definition driving sales, as well as live HD sporting events both on the BBC and ITV channels.

With an autumn schedule boasting UEFA Champions League, England World Cup qualifiers and FA Cup football on ITV HD exclusive to Freesat, and first class dramas and entertainment including Heroes and Strictly Come Dancing from BBC HD, strong sales are set to continue.

Emma Scott, Managing Director of Freesat commented,

There’s no denying how much people enjoy watching in high definition once they see it for themselves and the success of Freesat proves that. Unfortunately there are still a lot of people out there who think they’re already watching in HD because they have an HD ready TV – but they aren’t.

We want to help everyone understand that HD Ready is not the same thing as HD now. Without an HD digital receiver connected to an HD Ready TV or an integrated TV with Freesat HD built in you can’t watch an HD TV programme. It needn’t be complicated or costly. For those people that already have a satellite dish installed, they may simply be able to take their Freesat digital box or integrated TV home and plug it straight in.

So what does the future hold for Freesat?

The introduction of Freesat+ (their words, not ours!), a digital television recorder (DTR or HDR), due for release by Humax in November (confirmed).

An increased number of manufacturers, including some leading brands whom are already in discussions with Freesat, plus a larger supply chain.

Freesat are also continuing with it’s plan to offer 200 channels by early 2009, with channels being added to the EPG every week or two. Channel Five is said to be just a few weeks away, with an exclusive Freesat channel (presumed RTE, not official) expected by the end of the year.

Commenting on the future of Freesat, Emma Scott said,

We’ve done a great job so far, and we’re delighted that so many people are now satisfied Freesat homes. We look forward to continuing to work with all our partners to build on our success for Christmas and into 2009

28 Responses to “Freesat Reaches 100,000 Sales Since Launch”

  1. Wouter Says:

    I think it will only start kicking off for real, once the first (few?) HD PVR will be available, and the remaining ‘FreeView’ channels will make it, notably Five etc.

    However, more HD channels, in particular a Discovery HD, National Geographic HD, 4HD, would be a nice added bonus and help pushing for FreeSat.

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  2. Al Says:

    Couldn’t agree with Wouter more although Discovery & Nat Geographic, 2 channels I’d also like to see, may be under Sky exclusive deals, we’ll have to wait and see. If they are, maybe they’ll re-sign non exclusive and join Freesat as well when their deals are up.

    A 5HD channel would be nice as well.

    Its good to see Freesat realising the importance of HD and maybe now this has been realised as being the premier selling point of Freesat, we’ll see more HD content and a fuller schedule.

    Freesat also need to pressure its broadcasters to put up the best quality compression. I know BBC HD has been praised, but many have commented on the poor quality of the ITV HD picture by comparison. The sound also needs to be similarly quality ensured as one thing with HD, you can guarantee a lot of cinema users who will notice poor transmissions.

    I welcome the news that other manufacturers are going to be producing PVR’s. I’vre been reading recently on the What Hi FI Forums about the tremendous trouble people are experiencing with their Sky HD boxes: http://whathifi.com/forums/t/123278.aspx

    To this end, I’m looking forwards to a bit of Japanese reliabilty from maybe Panasonic. Lets hope the Japs are coming!

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  3. Denis Says:

    If your waiting for Discovery or Nat Geographic channels on Freesat then you will be waiting for ever. Look it’s just not going to happen.

    4HD and maybe 5HD, yes a possibility. We need to remember this is the free satalite service as an alternative to Freeview. If these other channels that are available on Sky for a fee are to come to Freesat then who is going to pay for them? Yes that’s right us the users. So once Freesat starts charging then the whole principle on what the service is based on is undermined. It would then be competing directly with other pay to view services. That sadly would be the beginning of the slide on a slippery slope that would see the end of Freesat.

    The choice is clear you have a Rolls Royce service from Sky with a level of fee to match or you accept a pretty good standard of service from Freesat for free and be prepared to wait for other HD channels such as 4HD and maybe 5HD if it happens.

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  4. Arthur Says:

    Being from Ireland I really hope that RTE 1,2 and 3 will be available on Freesat. And hey, everyone across the pond cound enjoy the Irish content that most of these channels have to offer!!

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  5. Mark Says:

    @ Denis

    You can pay for Freeview channels – including Discovery. Why would pay channels on Freesat be any different?

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  6. Matt Says:

    Al, FYI apparently you can’t say “Japs” these days.

    A big no-no.

    I’m not shure about “Jap’s eye” etc., you’d have to check with your council.

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  7. Nigel Whitfield Says:

    I don’t think anyone who suffered at the hands of Panasonics TUCTH-100 Freeview PVR would be relishing the thought of a Freesat version.

    RTE channels would be unlikely to go on Freesat (with the exception of the specific RTE International one, that’s likely to be a Freesat exclusive). At the moment, when they buy a series – Desperate Housewives, say – they can air it before the UK if they like, and it doesn’t cost them that much, because there’s a small audience.

    But if they were on Freesat, they’d be potentially showing it to the whole of the UK, and that would cost them more for rights, and cause annoyance to UK channels that had FTA rights too.

    The situation doesn’t apply so much the other way round, because the additional viewers in the Republic represent a small fraction of the total that which UK broadcasters can reach.

    You can’t get whole channels like Discovery on Freeview; what you get is a service from TopUpTV that shows selected programming from those channels; the channels themselves don’t have space on Freeview. TUTV takes care of the encryption, and requires you to use a box with their software.

    On Freesat, there is no provision for encryption at the moment, and the pay channels aren’t suddenly going to throw away their business model to broadcast free to air. Very few have compelling enough content that they could manage that, especially with many predicting an advertising downturn. And I don’t see Freesat wanting to muddy the waters of their proposition right now by allowing a parallel service like TopUpTV.

    If Freesat boxes had CI slots (which they don’t, so far) and if the channels were prepared to simulcrypt, and if they wanted to sell CAMs and cards to end users, and if they wanted to manage the subscriptions themselves, then they could retail themselves direct to end viewers.

    That’s a lot of Ifs. And why bother, when those who want pay TV can go to Sky, who will manage subcriptions, billing, cards and all that stuff for the channels?

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  8. Denis Says:

    Yes you can get top up cards for Freeview but getting a Discovery HD and Nat Geo. is not going to happen even if people were preapared to pay. The admin cost to Freesat would prohibit it.

    You will only get FTA channels.

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  9. Paul Says:

    I wonder if setanta sports would ever consider going on freesat (maybe for a set period of time), just to drive viewers away from sky sports.

    It may not be very likely and it would be expensive for setenta but it would be a big kick in the goolies for sky sports if it were ever to happen.

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  10. Nigel Whitfield Says:

    The sticking point for many of those “ifs” is the first one – without a CI slot (into which the card reading module, called a CAM fits), then it’s a non-starter. You can’t do pay TV is the boxes don’t have a way to handle subs cards, and no Freesat boxes do.

    They’d have to persuade someone to make a box with a CI slot, or with the encryption system. And while on Freeview, there’s no competition, it wouldn’t be an easy sell on satellite – “Buy this box, and pay a bit and only ever be able to get Setanta sports, as an alternative to a Sky box where you can get a lot more sport.”

    It would be a big punt for both Setanta and whoever made the box.

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  11. luke watts Says:

    glad to see things are going well. just read that, play tv which is freeview+ for the ps3 has sold 85,000 in a week!! so with any luck when freesat+ comes out it will sell like hotcakes. still think 100,000 in such a short space of time with relatively little advertising is no mean feat, lets hope it continues.

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  12. Steven Says:

    I wonder how the decision was made to build Freesat receivers without a CI slot? I’m uncertain who the encryption service belongs to but you can bet it’s $ky. Otherwise it might have been possible for Free-to-View channels to be received with a card (a Freesat card in fact) like five and Channel 4 HD… or even allow some subscription services? . . Could be a missed opportunity or best avoided?

    Would be interesting to how the 100,000 total sales was measured, must be number manufactured? Great news anyway . .

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  13. Nigel Whitfield Says:

    With a CI slot, you could have any type of encryption you want – not necessarily the same as Sky. But, you could only use the same type as Sky by buying in their system – which would largely of course negate the need for Freesat at all. Or you could try to persuade channels to simulcrypt, but that would likely only attract a small number.

    And, in any event, avoiding a CI slot is important for various reasons philosophically. Firstly it makes it clear to people that it really is a subscription free service and secondly – more importantly from some views – it’s a strategic move; the more people receive PSB services, especially the BBC, on equipment that has no possibility of encryption, then the harder it is to force those services to move away from a PSB and licence fee model to a subscription one.

    That was also one of the key reasons why CI facilities were not included in the Freeview spec.

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  14. J Says:

    cant wait too see some decent sat boxes.

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  15. Al Says:

    Personally I’d rather see Freesat stay free to air than have card slots. Once you go down that road it just becomes the “haves” and “have nots” again as all the best channels move to subscription.

    Denis, whilst you are probably right about someone having to pay for Channels such as Discovery to join, why should it be the users? What about the BBC from the licence fee. In case they haven’t noticed, Freeview is dead as a delivery medium thanks to bandwidth and the emergence of HD, so instead of throwing so much money at Freeview, they could always throw a little more towards Freesat.

    On the same subject, who the hell wants to watch The Tudors (and how many millions did that cost to commission)?

    Matt, I forgot we were under the power of the Labour thought police these days. Thank god us Brits still have some freedoms. Oh sh*t now I’ve just insulted every British person as well!!!!

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  16. Steven Says:

    Thanks Nigel.. As usual, your points make complete sense and as you rightly say it might make Freesat a pointless exercise if it started down the ‘encrypted’ road.

    Al, you said .. “who the hell wants to watch The Tudors”

    Personally, I thought it was a brilliant series and enjoyed every minute . .

    Perhaps you prefer watching Red? (not on Freesat thank God)

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  17. Al Says:

    Glad you enjoyed it. Personally and for a large proportion of the population, costume dramas and dramatised history hold no appeal. There are exceptions of course, some of the costume dramatisations of famous novels can be superb if you’re into that sort of entertainment, (I’m not), and they still hold appeal to many because of their litary basis, but programs like this that aren’t novel based, have far less general appeal and given the huge cost of commisioning, I have to wonder if the money would be better spent elsewhere.

    Everyone I know is saying how poor tv programming is currently. There’s hardly anything worth watching on any of the 2 main BBC channels at all. In fact for the last 2 months, I’m currently finding it difficult to find 2 programs a night to watch across all 5 channels that hold any appeal at all.

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  18. Al Says:

    My 42″ plasma sits switched off almost every night now. The pubs doing good business though. :)

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  19. AndrewM Says:

    The Tudors might have been a co-production (with Showtime in the US) or it might have been a straight acquisition, but either way it wasn’t solely paid for by the licence fee.

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  20. Steven Says:

    For me, the TV (BBC) licence truly offers value for money, no question. I think anyone would agree if you consider ALL the BBC services… I think the BBC made a good choice in The Tudors, personally. :-) .. You could do away with everything else, apart from Channel 4, and I wouldn’t be bothered . .

    So, the plasma is off . . It’ll be producing those ‘deep rich blacks’ that LCD’s just can’t do.. Especially if it’s turned off . . ;-)

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  21. Nigel Whitfield Says:

    2.05 Million for the Tudors in the week ending 14/9/08 – making it the most viewed drama on BBC 2 that week.

    The only C4 dramas to outperform it were Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives, the latter by only 300,000, the former by a mere 70,000. It outperformed everything on five, bar the new series of CSI Miami (2.8million).

    Tess of the D’Urbervilles, at 5.96 million, was the highest rated drama across all the terrestrial channels – even beating Wire in the blood (5.93).

    I ignored soaps, in considering dramas, but even so, I’d suggest that while Al might not like The Tudors and other such dramas, the figures suggest that a substantial number of people are enjoying it, certainly in comparison to other dramas on TV.

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  22. Al Says:

    Nigel does it being the most viewed BBC drama that week, really suggest it was great or just the best of the rubbish thats currently on the BBC?

    I hardly call being outviewed by Ugly Betty or Desperate Housewives a resounding success.

    Outperforming everything on five apart from the new series of CSI Miami is hardly an achievement either when a quite large proportion of the households in the UK still cannot receive it.

    Further, a good run of the mill series such as CSI or Ugly Betty should easily be blown away by a showcase drama or film. The fact that they weren’t, says something about the limited scope of appeal that the drama has.

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  23. Nigel Whitfield Says:

    It suggests that a lot of people do watch it; I never claimed it was great, but it’s obviously watched by a fair number of people – for BBC2 those are pretty decent figures. You yourself think that this isn’t a popular genre, so for something that’s not so popular to come pretty close to figures for heavily promoted US dramas on a channel that often tends to have a stronger viewing share than BBC doesn’t strike me as at all bad.

    But,I think you’ve made up your mind that it’s of limited appeal whatever the figures say. You don’t like The Tudors; fine. But that doesn’t automatically make it a waste of money, or that it’s a ratings flop.

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  24. Al Says:

    You’re entitled to your opinion but if it was really of mass appeal it would have been up there with Tess of the Durbervilles not below Ugly Betty.

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  25. Nigel Whitfield Says:

    It’s managed a steady 9-11% in the audience share; I’d say that’s far from a flop.

    It would be a sad day indeed if the BBC were to chase ratings to the extent that they decided anything attracting around 10% share wasn’t worth doing. They have to cater to everyone – and there are frankly plenty of shows that get a far lower share, so I’m not even clear why you’re picking on The Tudors to such an extent.

    It’s a show for which there is quite clearly an audience; it’s available in HD, so they put it on the HD channel – and that too, surely, has to serve the whole population of licence fee payers, not just the mass market.

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  26. Steven Says:

    So.. What’s the opinion on Robin Hood?

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  27. Nigel Whitfield Says:

    Frothy and inoffensive? Something for which, again, there was a sizeable audience – around 30-35% viewing share.

    I’d say that’s quite reasonable – and the subject matter, being so well known as part of the UK’s folklore, probably makes it an easy sell for overseas too.

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  28. Steven Says:

    Yeah . . Full of humour too and quite sexy at times . .

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