Response: Ask Emma Scott A Question

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.

High Definition

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.

Channels

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.

On Demand

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.

Pay TV

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.

Interactive

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.

Manufacturers

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.

General

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.

67 thoughts on “Response: Ask Emma Scott A Question”

  1. I really do hope that C4HD, E4HD, S4CHD and FIVE HD come onto Freesat. I just want to watch HD television for free instead of being robbed by BSkyB.

  2. @51. Ian, Bagnor, Gwynedd
    C4HD- most likley out of them
    E4HD- dont expect it soon as it has a multi year deal with Sky
    S4CHD- as they havent launched yet not possible to say
    FIVE HD- also signed an agreement with Sky starting from July. Could be one year or multi

  3. Persuade Panny…..and no mention of LG for Iplayer……..sure signed we were conned into buying a Pup!

  4. is thay going to be sports channels comeing to freesat soonl the sky HD channels should come to freesat becouse it still in HD

  5. I note the question about the BBC Red button services,and the lack of them on Freesat, but why is it that people with Sky receivers are able to view far more services like Election multi-screens, News multi screens, (with six screens no less) and on Fridays, the Gene Hunt “Music From The Eighties”?
    What is more none of these are on Freeview either, and seem to be specifically tailored for Sky, with a message to “Press Sky anytime to exit the service”. We are licence payers, and give our money to the BBC, not to Sky, and this seems like blatant discrimination in favour of the BBC’s arch rival!
    Some changes are necessary.

  6. @54, kevin.
    The Sky channels will never be on freesat as they are pay services and freesat is also minor competition to Sky

  7. Interesting reading Emma’s responses and subsequent comments.

    I’ve been considering freesat for sometime now as I need a replacement for an increasingly flakey Humax 9200 – and fighting against the tide of the rest of the family’s “Sky is much better, we want sky” view. I’ve been monitoring the channel line-up but it’s disappointing, without a number of the channels that are currently on freeview (ie Fiver, FiveUSA, Virgin1, Dave) it would be almost impossible to convince them Freesat was the way to go for the primary TV platform, it would have to be in addition to a freeview pvr and would probably just be used to view a few of the additional channels (CBS*, movie channels, and itv3/4 +1 channels)

    Let’s hope the new astra capacity allows some of these channels to come to freesat so that it more closely mirrors freeview and would become a viable alternative. Even for HD freeview seems to have more to offer when HD lanches.

    As for the poll on why people are chossing Freesat ….. maybe there should be an option along lines of “Alternative to sky”. 🙂

  8. #57 – nickb

    With regard to your “increasingly flakey Humax 9200” – I’ve had a lot of problems with mine since last September’s retune. Humax have got a software update almost ready for release. If, like me, you can’t wait, go to “Humax Customer Support” and ask to join Beta Testing. The software has to be downloaded to a PC and installed from that PC using a serial cable between the two.

    I’ve been running the beta software for about 10 days now and it’s great. Remember – while it’s still in beta it can go wrong and you have to take that risk. For me it has gone right.

    Freesat features a lot of +1 channels, reducing the need to record. I find that most of the Freeview channels not yet on Freesat are not worth recording anyway. If you’ve got a dish already installed you can get a simple SD receiver from Argos for £30 and judge whether Freesat is the right way forward for you. If you haven’t got a dish, try the beta update from Humax and decide whether you really need anything else.

  9. #59 – Jock

    Thanks for your reply …. I think the hummy is getting worn out being around 4 years old ….. wiping programme lists etc ….. i will try the software update tho.

    We do tend to watch/record a few programmes on Virgin1 and FiveUSA

  10. #61 – Chris

    Why not? Surely the real questions are :-

    1) Are these 19 BBC channels preventing other useful channels finding space on Astra 2/Eurosat?

    2) Is the BBC contributing pro rata for the EPG listings, giving Emma a bigger pool of money for improving the service?

  11. Why are some channels that are on Freeview not available on Freesat. If they are non subscription then surely Freesat should be able to carry them.

  12. There is only one company – Panasonic – which offers a Freesat DVD recorder. Why do those who are not on a main Freeview transmitter only get a limited terestrial service and are unable to record programmes on a DVD for the use of their children.

  13. I have set up a 65cm dish on my apartment near Baden Baden. When I connect up the dish to the Humax box , I get a message that says that the channel cannot be viewed here contact freesat for help

Comments are closed.