Following on from the huge response we got in the Ask Emma Scott A Question post, we have the responses.
Can we just say a big thank you to all of you for asking such a wide range of questions (and some over and over again ;)), sorry if yours is not specifically covered, but we had to condense down from approx 100, to 10, but in the end got 20 submitted.
Also can we extend the thanks to Emma herself for taking the time to answer each one; as well as the Freesat team and Borkowski (Freesat PR) for facilitating. We hope the responses give a little insight in to the future of Freesat.
Q: A recent poll on joinfreesat.co.uk showed that 63% of customers chose Freesat for HD content above all others, does it concern you that channels like C4HD, E4HD and FiveHD all seem to have contractual agreements with Sky (whether that be through limited 2D space or financial) that will mean no chance of them appearing on Freesat any time soon? Is 1.5 HD channels deemed enough to meet the primary advertising strategy?
A: The vast majority of viewers are very happy with freesat but that doesn’t mean we’re at all complacent. I spend a lot of my time taking to broadcasters about their HD ambitions and we’ve been in on-going talks with Channel 4 over 4HD for some time. I’m confident that there will be positive news on the HD front soon – and we will continue to try our best to get more.
Limited satellite capacity isn’t the issue in this case as channel can be moved and Astra is launching new UK focussed satellite capacity next year. In the end it’s a commercial/ financial decision by the channel and the market has been tough so we’re focused on trying to make that decision easier to make by continuing to attract new viewers and maintain growth – so the economics stack up for them better.
Unfortunately FIVE has elected to go pay, which means neither Freesat nor Freeview will be adding them any time soon.
Q: Have any discussions taken place with Channel 4 (c4HD and E4HD) and Five (Five HD) into bring them to Freesat, do you envisage this being a reality within 2010? If limited 2D space is an issue, could they become a red button option?
A: See previous answer
Q: Why is so little HD broadcast in Dolby Digital, and why none in 5.1 surround? What is the point in HD video, without HD sound?
A: This isn’t something Freesat (or any other TV service) directly controls unfortunately but Freesat HD is fully equipped to broadcast Dolby 5.1 surround should the channels choose to do so. Ultimately it’s down to the broadcaster rather than Freesat and is exactly the same for all TV services. I’d also add that the HD is still enjoyable without surround sound, even though it’s obviously very nice to have!
Q: Can we be sure that the amount of HD content on Freesat will not fall below that of Freeview long term? If it does, does Freesat remain a viable option for anyone other than in areas not able to receive Freeview signals?
A: Although it’s not possible to dictate that broadcasters come onto Freesat, we will have as many HD channels as Freeview once 4HD joins. More importantly, beyond that Freesat has the capacity for far more HD services than Freeview – and given you can already receive our services across the UK, we will always be in a better position strategically.
Q: Once ITV HD goes simulcast with ITV 1 (now available) will we see an option for HD recorders to replace ITV HD as channel 103? Why has it been given channel slot 119 and not 103 or 109?
A: ITV has taken a dual channel strategy approach to ITV1HD and channel 119 was chosen as it was the first available listing with all the other ITV channels on the EPG. It wouldn’t be practical or fair to start moving channels around and would go against Freesat’s EPG listings policy.
Q: Are there any long term plans for Freesat to provide 3D broadcasts? Would the current receivers be compatible?
A: 3D is very exciting and it’s something we are actively looking at. We worked hard to make sure that the first generation of receivers were as future proofed as possible – so the great news is that all HD Freesat receivers would be 3D compatible – if you buy a new 3D TV and the specs of course! We will continue to talk to broadcasters about opportunities in this area.
Q: Have any existing channels contracted to Sky as subscription been in talks with you regarding becoming FTA, do they see Freesat as being a viable option yet to gain a potentially larger audience? CNBC went down this route in Feb.
A: We regularly talk to channels across the market and expect others to follow CNBC. As Freesat and its audience grows, it will become a more attractive option for channels because they’ll reach more viewers and generate more advertising revenue.
Q: Is narrow-beam capacity the biggest hurdle to additional channels on freesat, HD or otherwise? What steps are Ofcom, Freesat (BBC/ITV), Astra (SES) and Sky taking to ensure that narrow-beam capacity is prioritised for FTA channels?
A: It’s not an issue as there is still capacity available and moving forward there will be more capacity when Astra launches an additional satellite next year.
Q: There are many channels FTA, but not on the Freesat EPG. Are there any incentives or marketing to these channels to persuade them to join?
A: Freesat offers an opportunity to reach a large audience but will not offer financial incentives to channels. It’s important that there is a clear and fair policy that applies to all. We are working with the very best of the free to air channels market and our door is always open to other channels that may wish to be listed
Q: What are the plans for the Freesat Information Channel, should Freesat customers be turning to this channel on a regular basis?
A: The Info Channel is an exciting new development for us and gives Freesat a chance to inform viewers about service issues, enhancements, features etc so it’s worth checking to see if there are any new and relevant updates. We will continue to use it to communicate to viewers along with the website.
Q: When will the Panasonic TV’s with Freesat built-in get iPlayer? Will it cover old and new models?
A: Over air downloads are planned for the coming months and will definitely cover all Panasonic models – so whilst it might be a bit frustrating to wait a little longer, we’ve worked really hard with our manufacturers to persuade them to address the existing base of homes
Q: When will the iPlayer beta end and is it the intention of Freesat to offer a ITV Player beta/test period for Freesat customers? Will this happen in the summer?
A: The BBC iPlayer Beta will come to an end soon. There will also be a phased launch for ITV Player beginning with initial testing in coming months.
Q: Is it Freesat’s intention to launch Project Canvas (subject to approval)? Will 4OD and Demand Five be considered in the interim?
A: Freesat does intend to launch a Freesat receiver with Project Canvas within it, pending BBC Trust and OFT approval and 4OD and Demand Five are under consideration.
Q: Are there any plans for CAM slots/pay tv to be introduced to freesat? Such as subscribing to individual channels without the large monthly costs Sky currently offer. Top Up TV for Freesat?
A: Freesat’s no bills, no strings promise has proven very popular. However, we will continue to consider all options for improving the service in the future and pay TV, most likely using a third party supplier, is a potential option following Ofcom’s Wholesale Must Offer decision.
Q: Having moved from Freeview to Freesat, It is disappointing to see that the BBC Red Button service is lacking in the news multiscreens, extra coverage of music, entertainment and sports events, Comedy Extra and children’s coverage, especially as Freeview seems to get more despite having severely limited capacity for extra services such as this. When do you expect the BBC will bring Freesat in line with the other services?
A: Freesat’s worked hard with the BBC to get the range of Red Button services already on offer and we continue to discuss how these might be enhanced. Freesat has a tailored version of iPlayer specifically built for the platform so we feel on balance we’re doing rather better than Freeview.
Q: Would it be possible to support Internet applications like Skype and web browsing in the future?
A: Potentially but only on future products and not something we’re actively looking at.
Q: How involved are Freesat in issues manufacturers have with software problems; a prime example being the update issues caused by Harvard and Humax receivers?
A: Freesat works closely with all our partners to make sure that customers get the best possible viewing experience but ultimately over air downloads come down to the manufacturer. That said we try our very hardest to make sure our partners learn from any mistakes made so that they don’t happen again.
Q: Having seen many prophets of doom, forecasting the demise of Freesat; does Freesat have a long term future? What sales figures are you expecting over the next few years?
A: Freesat most definitively has a long term future and we’d point to recent developments such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player, as well as possible future additions such as pay TV, increased satellite capacity and 3D as evidence of that. We’re here for the long haul!
We don’t share sales predictions but we expect to continue to grow – the World Cup makes this a great potential year for Freesat
Q: Would it not be more beneficial to market the service a bit more aggressively? I appreciate that in the way Freesat is run it’s ‘not for profit’ so effectively they don’t have the financial resources of the likes of Sky etc but think take up would be improved with more awareness of Freesat products?
A: Awareness is currently over 60%, our performance has exceeded all targets and expectations and we’re currently running our biggest ever ad campaign. We spend a tiny proportion of the marketing budgets of our competitors – but we deliver many more new homes and happy customers. My Marketing Director would always like to have more money though!
Q: What were the differences and challenges between launching Freeview and Freesat? And what is she looking forward to in the future? Is Freecable on the horizon?
A: I’ve sort of done cable already from my days launching Optus Vision in Australia! Every broadcast technology I’ve worked with has its pluses and sometimes minuses, but satellite is, without a doubt, the most important transmission system in the UK at the moment. Going forward our ability to grow Freesat as a hybrid on-demand service will remain integral – and the option of pay TV may be an interesting hook (not that Freesat itself would sell those services). Above all I’m keen to ensure that all our existing customers continue to be really happy with the Freesat promise they originally bought into.
Q: What do you think of the work done by joinfreesat.co.uk to promote and encourage the Freesat platform? (honest, this was posed by a reader, not us!)
A: We’ve had fantastic support from joinfreesat and long may it continue. The team and I regularly read the site and comments and, although we’re not always in a position to comment ourselves, we appreciate how readers inform others and straighten out issues on our behalf – and for the very honest feedback we get! So, a big thank you from me and the team, it’s nice that Freesat has such a loyal and passionate fan base.