Following the huge response we got in the Ask Emma Scott a question (2012) post, we have the responses.
Just want to say a massive thank you to all those who contributed a question(s), I hope that most of them have been covered. Apologies to anyone whos question has been missed, but I needed to ensure a broad range of questions whilst not submitting too many. I managed to scale down the questions from around 200 to 28, and looking at them again now, it is no surprise it has take Emma such a long time to go through them. Sadly some questions posed at the time have now been answered, but that ultimately is the result of a fast moving industry.
Also can I extend huge thanks to Emma herself for taking the time to answer each and every one; as well as the Freesat team (namely Jo Bleasdale) for facilitating and putting up with my constant reminders ;).
I hope the responses give a little insight in to the future of Freesat, so sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy.
1. Q. One of the key value propositions behind Freesat was free access to HD channels. Since this is a market into which Freeview is now moving, how does Freesat intend to differentiate itself going forward?
A: Innovation is part of our DNA. We’re building on Freesat+ and our current offering of five HD channels, plus BBC iPlayer and ITV Player. We’re also going to have 24 additional HD channels courtesy of the BBC, for the whole period of the Olympics, covering every live televised event. And the launch of our next generation Freesat product this year will, I believe, deliver some new and truly special features, for free. So watch this space…!
2. Q. When are Freesat (and the Trust) going to tackle the neutrality restriction placed on Freesat that allegedly results in its quality of transmission being lowered to match that of Freeview? Can Freesat not force broadcasters to retain a higher bit-rate to further enhance the Freesat experience?
A: That’s not the case. We’re under no restrictions of the kind from the BBC Trust or ourselves. Freesat sets the minimum standards for HD quality for all channels, and broadcasters manage their own technical delivery for their HD channels – so it is the BBC which sets the transmission rate for its HD services.
3. Q. Is there any way in which the five HD channels can be grouped together? i.e. EPG slots in a row, or as many have suggested, within a HD category?
A: As you can imagine, the EPG listing has to be managed carefully and within a clear policy. We do treat this very seriously and always consider channel and viewers needs. An HD genre certainly is something that we could do in the future and we’ll certainly take your suggestion on board.
4. Q. Have any discussions taken place with regards to the inclusion of Channel 5 HD this year, given their original plan to launch on Freeview in the summer, which subsequently has been retracted?
A: We work very closely with Channel 5, and are confident that in the future, if they make C5 HD available for free, we’d have it on Freesat.
5. Q: Do you believe Freesat have received a large enough number of sales yet for existing subscription channels (on Sky) to consider the move to FTA? Most requested are of course those available on Freeview from UKTV (Dave, Watch, Gold etc). Is there any glimmer of hope that this transition is starting to take place, following the transfer of CNBC to FTA?
A: We’ve had strong growth over the last four years, and the bigger we get, the easier it’ll be for channels to make the decision to join us as they can make more money from advertising sales as a result. The UK has a vibrant and unique range of FTA TV channels and Freesat has been instrumental in helping them to reach new audiences. We hope to gain more quality channels over time.
6. Q. What is being sorted with ITV to offer the correct regional TV for the relevant postcode area? It would appear that many ITV regions still remain hidden behind the pay wall (encrypted).
A: Work to add more ITV regions on Freesat is already underway, thanks to the availability of a new UK-targeted satellite (Astra 1N). The work will continue over the next couple of months and we expect this change to be complete by the end of summer 2012, if not sooner. The changes will be announced on the Freesat website and on Freesat Information on EPG 999 as soon as the work is complete.
It’s worth saying here that when a regional change takes place, existing recordings for that channel will need to be re-booked so we encourage viewers to keep an eye on Channel 999 and the Freesat website for information over the coming weeks.
7. Q. According to the poll on Joinfreesat, the most wanted high-definition channel is Film4 HD (51%, 2,576 Votes). Will this launch on Freesat this year?
A: It’s great to see our customers are so passionate! We’ll certainly highlight this research in our discussions with Channel 4 and like you, we’d certainly love to see the channel join the platform.
8. Q. Are there any plans to overhaul the Freesat Information Channel, perhaps linking it closer with the website or even your Twitter account at the backend side, so that information is kept up-to-date and relevant? For that matter, do you have any information on how many people actually use it, as it’s not particularly prominent and shockingly out of date?
A: Updates on the Information Channel are updated regularly with Freesat news and channel launches and it is designed to be an additional source of information to our website. We’re always looking to improve our service however and your feedback is welcomed – we’re definitely looking at how we might evolve the channel in the future. The social media side of our communications is a focus for us in 2012, so watch this space…
9. Q. What are Freesat doing to actively encourage existing FTA/FTV channels to launch on Freesat? There are still quite a significant number still to join including most noticeable Sony Entertainment Television, Motors TV, Viva (all currently free to view) and the Travel Channel, Sky News (currently free to air).
A: We want to ensure that as many high quality, great channels are available on Freesat as possible and we do work very hard in our channel relationships to get the right channels on board. We would welcome all of the channels you mention who are free to view on satellite becoming free to air channels.
10. Q. Currently you have a ‘News and Sports’ category with no sports channels in it. Is anything being done to resolve this?
A: We’ve got the best summer of subscription-free sport on TV ever this year, from Wimbledon to the Olympics, and we’re delighted that Freesat viewers will be able to enjoy the 24 HD Olympic channels from the BBC, plus select 3D content too. They will be available via red button and in a specially created Olympics genre. Please keep and eye on our website for news as it happens.
11. Q. What are the plans surrounding the G2 version of receivers, what are the key reasons for the revision and when are the first receivers likely to roll-out?
A: Plans for next generation Freesat products are progressing at great pace. It’s all top secret at the moment so I can’t divulge any new details at the moment, but rest assured that joinfreesat fans will be among the first to hear about all new news. It will definitely be worth the short wait!
13. Q. Was it a mistake on Freesat’s part to advertise ITV Player as “coming to other devices” when certain manufacturers had no intention of offering the service? Many customers with effected boxes feel aggrieved by this.
A: It’s fair to say that ITV Player has taken longer to roll out to other boxes and TVs than we wished, and we do understand how frustrating that has been for some customers.
ITV Player joining Freesat was promoted in good faith. From the first press release in late 2009 up until ITV Player launched on Humax boxes, we understood our other manufacturing partners would be planning on bringing ITV Player to their range of Freesat HD receivers. Unfortunately as you know this hasn’t been possible for all HD receivers. As soon as we were made aware of this we updated our website and other marketing. The last thing that we would ever want to do is mislead customers.
The good news is that ITV Player will become available across more receivers as more manufacturers finalise bringing it on board and we will update on this front soon.
14. Q. Why do we still not have ITV Player on the majority of boxes? What are the major hurdles and can we expect roll out on the remaining boxes early this year?
A: We remain committed to giving all Freesat customers the best possible service. For some manufacturers, integrating ITV Player has been more technically challenging, but we continue to work very closely with them to make this happen whenever possible.
15. Q. Have any discussions taken place with Lovefilm or Netflix to bring their services to Freesat?
A: Without going into specifics, the Freesat team talk to a range of content providers and will continue to do everything we can to bring the best mix of channels and services to our customers.
16. Q. Is Boxoffice365 here to stay or being used a test bed for new interactive services as in all due respect cannot complete and has an uninspiring library of films?
A: The BoxOffice365 beta trial has had some positive feedback from our customers, which has provided useful viewer research for Freesat. We continue to keep a watching brief on BoxOffice 365’s plans for development.
17. Q. What are the chances of having access to Sky Sports on Freesat? Is this a possibility or dead in the water given the rivalry between the two platforms?
A: It’s fair to say that it’s unlikely we’ll see live Sky Sports on Freesat anytime soon, but you never know…
18. Q. Many Freesat receivers require you to access a category page when pressing the guide button, before accessing the full listing, resulting in two remote control presses; are their plans to make it just a single click?
A: For next generation Freesat, we’re focussing on making it as simple and easy as possible for people to find the TV they really love, quickly and easy.
19. Q. Is it possible to change the EPG slot numbering to tidy up the order? Does your EPG contract with the broadcasters make provision for this or is it forbidden to change a broadcaster’s channel number?
A: We organise our EPG numbers to make it as easy as possible to watch all channels, but also leave space for future new channels. The EPG listing has to be managed carefully and within a clear policy. We do treat this very seriously and always consider channel and viewers needs.
20. Q. Why has the EPG download become progressively slower and are there any plans to improve this? This issue seems to be getting worse and affecting most boxes, especially from Humax, TechniSat and many of the Freesat HD TV’s.
A: We do know that this has slowed for some customers, and are working hard with our partners to improve it. Freesat sets a minimum speed for the EPG data to load and although we’re well within the limits, we do know this is of concern to some customers and we’re working to optimise the broadcast of our EPG data as we enhance the service going forward.
21. Q. With regards Freesat Listings, any chance of an app for apple, windows or android mobiles/tablets? I know freeview have one. Could it be possible to use this to record programs like the sky one?
A: Apps are something we’re most definitely exploring, as it’s the logical extension of our service. Like the majority of TV viewers, I often have my phone or tablet nearby when watching TV and I can really see how the ‘second screen’ trend is beginning. Naturally we’d like to be able to offer the very best to Freesat viewers so it’s something we’re looking at.
22. Q. Why did some manufacturers like LG and Panasonic stop supporting their Freesat products? Was it simply a case of their disinterest in the platform, or were the contractual requirements from Freesat in the early days simply not up to scratch to enforce support, updates, services etc? How can you guarantee uniformity on the G2 spec to prevent this happening again?
A: It can be more challenging for global TV manufacturers to integrate UK specific services into their products and provide the ongoing support and development investment needed. For our next generation of products we’ve deliberately chosen widely-used open standards that will make ongoing development and support even easier. It’s worth saying that we’ve always had terrific support from Panasonic since launch and they remain committed to Freesat, as do Samsung, both of whom have increased their ranging of Freesat IDTVs for 2012.
23. Q. Do you feel the current Freesat tv advertisement adequately conveys the features and key appeal of Freesat? The general consensus online is that it has tried to be quirky and remember able (adj.) rather than informative which is needed whilst Freesat is still an unknown brand name for most UK homes; has the excellent Freeview ad (with the balloons) made Freesat consider a re-think on future ads?
A: The last campaign featuring Freesat1 aired in January, and was designed as an entertaining ad with a simple message: that there is a simple way to get satellite TV, no catch. Freesat offers satellite customers an easy way to enjoy brilliant TV, catch-free. It’s just not possible in one TV ad to cover off all of the key information about Freesat, but we do know from our research that we reached a lot of people who otherwise would not have known about Freesat, and that our web traffic saw a great increase so we think it worked. That said we’re currently planning our new TV ad which we’ll unveil in the next few months and we’ll make sure joinfreesat gets a look early doors.
24. Q. Has Emma considered advertising via Radio? The biggest holdback for the platform has in the past been the lack of awareness and whilst it’s been good to see programme sponsorship deals (Charlie Boorman etc) I do think Freesat could increase awareness further by using the power of radio advertising as well as it’s TV campaigns. Radio, as opposed to TV, is cheaper and during breakfast/drive periods reaches as many, if not more, people than TV. Also, when listening in cars, people don’t and can’t fast forward through the ads (granted they can change station) but think it’s something Emma should really give thought to. Sky haven’t bothered with radio advertising historically but did run a campaign across the major groups before Christmas.
A: As a TV service, we obviously believe that TV is a brilliant way to reach people, but we do agree that radio advertising can also be effective. We’ve run radio advertising campaigns since launch, with a particular focus around Digital Switchover, and we still believe it’s an important factor in driving our growth. So yes, radio advertising is something we’ve always done, and will continue to do so.
25. Q. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to find a newspaper or magazine that focuses on FREESAT channels in their TV listings publications. Do you have plans to “encourage” (I presume that would require money) the publishers to feature freesat channels in their own section and, if so, when? At the moment, all we have is the online “zingzing” guide, but that’s no good when you’re settled in the armchair browsing the TV mag!
A: We agree that it’s frustrating that we’re not listed in all of the TV Guide magazines, however we do talk to them all on a regular basis and will continue to do so. Freesat’s TV Guide is one of the most visited sections on our own website, so we know that there’s a real appetite for recommendations of what to watch. The Radio Times lists Freesat channels very clearly in their listings, and this is something that we’d like to see more of across the board.
26. Q. Do you have concerns that moving in the direction of offering pay services is against the key ethos of Freesat?
A: Freesat will always remain free at heart, but we do think that in the future, viewers will expect the freedom to choose to pay for things if they’d like to. What we won’t ever do is phone our customers up every week to sell them associated products and services.
27. Q. We see many comments by satellite installers asking whether Freesat will firm up support for CAI registered members to help encourage Freesat installations? Many are struggling to obtain assistance from Freesat and gaining approval to use the Freesat logo on vans, advertising etc; they would like an official channel of communication.
A: We’ve worked closely with the CAI to put a process in place that allows CAI registered installers to use the Freesat logo on their vans, listings (i.e. Yellow pages ads), websites and local press ads. We have issued guidance and requirements for CAI registered installers who can now contact Freesat to obtain a Freesat logo and then request approval for artwork using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org
28. Q. (admin) As well as hundreds of questions submitted on joinfreesat, we have also had hundreds of very good suggestions. If we create a suggestions page on joinfreesat, will Freesat use it for future development?
A: Feedback is incredibly valuable in helping us to understand exactly what our customers are looking for. We’re always very happy to hear from Freesat customers, so any comments submitted will be taken into consideration (but I can’t promise we’ll use them all!). Also please feel free contact us via our website – we’d love to hear from you and you’d be surprised how many suggestions made are swiftly acted upon here at Freesat
Thank you for all your questions – I hope my answers have been useful. We’ve been hugely grateful for your feedback and support over the last four years! Emma Scott, Managing Director, Freesat