Sat4Free launches in Ireland

Sat4Free, which is based on the Freesat service available in the UK, gives Irish viewers access to all FTA UK channels including BBC One and Two, ITV, Channel 4, Film4, plus many more; in addition to a selection of UK and Irish radio channels.

The service offers both SD and HD receivers, which are re-badged Alba units displaying the Sat4Free name instead of Freesat. The EPG is also an edited Freesat version.

The pre-set region for this platform is Northern Ireland, with a postcode already programmed in. RTÉ One, RTÉ Two and TG4 are not available on this service, but RTÉ International will be, once launched as a Freesat exclusive channel later this year / early next year.

Sat4Free is being sold through Tesco, Powercity, Woddies DIY and Atlantic Homecare. The standard-definition version costs approximately €299, with high-definition available at approximately €399. This price includes installation. For those that don’t need installation, Powercity are selling at €89.95 (SD) and €199.95 (HD) without.

A PVR receiver is planned for the future, but Humax are not willing to comment on their involvement, so it’s likely the PVR will be of Alba Group brand, due in 2009. Panasonic are also said to be planning release of an IDTV version, although the existing Panasonic plasmas with Freesat built-in are available through ROI already.

With a service so closely matched to the Freesat service, we are quite surprised to find that Freesat have no involvement. We asked whether they knew about the service, and were told that it had been reported a number of times by members of the public. In a statement provided to us, Freesat said:

Freesat is a UK only service. It has not launched in any other countries and has no plans to do so.

We really can’t comment any further at this point.

It would be great to have a similar service in Ireland, but have to wonder what will happen next…


Sat4Free Official Website
Irishtimes Press Release

43 thoughts on “Sat4Free launches in Ireland”

  1. If Freesat was a joint inititive by the BBC and ITV for the British Isles (including Northern Ireland) Who gave permission to a rival platform to air their channels? Who is funding it? Are British licence payers indirectly subsidising this service?

  2. Yeah I agree with Michael, Freesat should either licence this or stop the transmission.

    It adds nothing to Freesat (in fact it has less) but adds to the confusion by providing another similar choice but with less. Northern Ireland is part of the UK its covered by Freesat anyway so it doesn’t need another “same” service.

    I too am concerned that as a British licence payer, I’m subsidising programming for a rival I don’t approve of.

    If and when Freesat slap a huge programming licence fee on the service, the money from which can then be used to perhaps provide Freesat users with access to some traditionally pay channels for free, then I’ll relax.

  3. My hunch would be that perhaps Alba (who seem to be the prime movers here) has decided that something in their Freesat license means that they’re entitled to use the EPG in other equipment too – either a wishful reading, or a sloppy drafting. And they’ve decided to leap into the gap.

    Calling sat4free a rival platform is probably a bit of a stretch; it’s a rebrand, with a fixed geographic region.

  4. Interestingly the SAT4FREE website is currently ‘off air for routine maintenance’ Must have had a lot of hits in a very short time! perhaps Freesat have slapped an injuncunction on them?

    Having read the Irish Times article the Sat4Free spokesman appears to be one of the set top suppliiers.

    Come on FreeSat make a statement!

  5. You’re probably right there Nigel on how its come about.

    I just wanted to correct something in my post above, I now understand (having re-read it) its being transmitted to the Republic of Ireland not Northern Ireland (it just uses the NI postcode), hence the foreign country bit in the original report.

    Also, as a new post there aren’t many replies yet, but I’m sure many UK license payers will object to their licence fee subsidising programming for the Republic Of Ireland, a country that isn’t part of the UK.

    Maybe admin could pass the views of UK licence payers onto Emma Scott along with my licensing point in 2.

    I’m sure we’d all relax if the ROI payed for Setanta, Extreme and Nat Geo joining Freesat on FTA in return.

  6. Surely Sat4Free must be seen as somewhat deficient by customers who have bought into it, given that it doesn’t (and cannot) carry the Irish channels. It really isn’t much of an Irish platform if it doesn’t provide the staple services (and the promise of RTE International isn’t really adequate compensation).

    Mind you, if it increases awareness of what *can’t* be received, it may shake things up a bit (and for those of us outside Ireland, it could help draw attention to the fact that TV seems to be excluded from the single European market).

  7. Well, the BBC channels are already widely available to viewers in the Republic, along with UTV, Channel 4 and others – certainly they’re carried by cable services and also available via Sky.

    The Good Friday agreement only touches on broadcasting a little, chiefly with regard to the TG4 service being made more widely available in the North.

    Historically, given the small population of the Republic, rights holders haven’t worried too much about the extra viewers there and seem to turn a blind eye. In the opposite direction, it’s a different matter, though, if a RoI broadcaster buys rights to show something to four million people, and makes it available instead to 60+ million.

    In mainland Europe, cable providers pay for the right to carry BBC material; I don’t know whether they do in Ireland or not, or if Sky hands over cash to the BBC for viewers in the Republic.

  8. In answer to Al(Original), Sat4Free doesn’t really bring anything new in terms of the debate surrounding the (UK) licence free subsidising programming in other territories.

    BBC (and/or ITV) services have been relayed in Ireland pretty much from the earliest days of TV in the Republic (early ’60s), and they are also carried by some cable operators in other European territories. This is, apparently, quite legal (although it was once considered to be only semi-legal). It does, however, seem to me (as I perhaps implied in my post above) that in a single European market, all EU TV license payers should have access to all European PSB channels (for instance, it seems a bit of an anomaly to me that I can receive all the German PSB channels, but many of the French ones are encrypted).

    Anyway, I don’t begrudge the Irish watching UK channels – I just wish I could watch theirs too.

  9. The EU goes as far as saying (Television without Borders was the original directive; now superseded) that a country can’t restrict reception of FTA stuff from outside its borders.

    But unfortunately, it’s the rights holders that cause problems, and the EU can’t really just legislate to say “sod your intellectual property rights” which is more or less what they’d be doing.

    In some cases, the encryption comes about because of dominant pay operators (like the UK and Sky). In other cases, like Germany, it’s not used so much because the potential extra audience is not that big – Germany tends to dub imports, so there’s no attractive English soundtrack, and the overspill viewers are really only Austria and a bit of Switzerland. Austria, on the other hand, is a bit like Ireland – if they buy rights for Austria only, they can’t afford overspill to the whole of Germany.

    If the EU insisted everyone had to be able to get everything, then the broadcasters in a lot of smaller states would not be able to afford the rights; they could legislate to force the price of rights down, but the media owners would not be happy with that at all.

    I think it’s near enough an insoluble problem with so many territories and languages.

  10. sky must be quaking in their boots ,

    just think when freesat get proper channel ,
    sky are dropping their 10 pound per month just in tme for xmas ,
    lets face it were would premiership football be without sky ?

    maybe freesat can do a similar deal with a sport like camel racing hey

  11. Has Sky announced their intention to drop the 10 quid a month PVR charge? Or is that still speculation, as it has been for months?

    Where would premiership football be without Sky? Well, perhaps not in the financial mess it’s found itself in – thanks to greed and inflation, spurred by Sky’s cash, a lot of clubs are actually massively in debt right now.

    Meanwhile, analysts suspect Sky won’t make its 2010 predicted figures, and up to a quarter of pay TV subscribers are reported to be thinking of cancelling or moving to cheaper subscriptions.

    Meanwhile, it seems to me there are quite a few “proper” channels on Freesat; are BBC1-4, ITV1-4, or the C4 stable not “proper” ?

    One thing’s for sure – the Freesat EPG has far fewer improper channels to page through!

  12. The only issue here can be rebadging of a Product using the Freesat EPG. Either Alba is allowed to do it or they are not – and that is a contractual matter between Alba & Freesat.

    Independant Irish sat retailers have already been selling Freesat equipment in Ireland – and many independant UK sat retailers will sell & post Freesat equipment abroad. And even if they were not – any idiot can drive across the border from Republic to NI and walk in to an Argos/Comet etc – I don’t think any one can stop an EU citizen buying product off the shelves.

    All the freesat channels are FTA – and can already be received in Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands – the only thing that changes is the size of dish you need the further from England you are. Even the likes of Aldi and Lidl regularly sell FTA equipment in Ireland playing up the BBC/ITV FTA channels.

    If anything, an official sales channel would be beneficial with a percentage of the hardware sales being fed back in to funding Freesat.

    Freesat already carry Irish radio content (RTE) to the whole of the UK – and later this year RTE International will be transmitting Irish produced TV content on Freesat to the whole of the UK at no expense to the British license payer (station funded by Irish license payer). This content is officially aimed at Irish ex pats living in UK – but it is important to point out that there are many British ex pats living in Ireland and France, Belgium etc who are already availing of UK FTA content.

    Also – don’t forget many channels on the Freesat EPG are not funded at all by the British license payer – so you are only really discussing the small amount of funding the the BBC/ITV have used to develop the EPG and setup the Freesat platform (a tiny percentage of the total license fee) – primarily to ensure all British license payers can receive digital TV.

    As I understood it – the UK FTA channels already pay for transmission rights to the ‘British Isles’ – on the known understanding that the content can be easily received in Ireland – it is problematic for Irish stations to justify paying the price for whole ‘British Isles’ rights since the population of the UK is over 10x that of Ireland (i.e. over 10x price for rights) – hence the current absence of any Irish FTA channels. The new RTE international station is expected to show only home produced content.

  13. If I were in the ROI I would simply buy a Freesat receiver and put in a UK postcode, I’m sure hundreds already are and in Europe too, or using a UK $ky receiver and card also. It’s not illegal to own a Freesat or $ky box outside the UK is it? Or a FTA satellite receiver for that matter.

    I’m sure NO PART of my BBC licence is sent on to foreign broadcasters even though I’m able to enjoy TV from virtually every European country and way beyond. On the other hand I’m sure it’s a minority who take advantage of viewing ‘foreign’ broadcasts.

    So basically, if a transmission is FTA and strong enough it’s gonna get watched regardless of location. I’m sure there are many hundrededs of Ex-Pats enjoying EastEnders in Southern Spain or anywhere in Europe but you can bet none of them have a UK BBC TV licence . . They probably watch for free, good luck . .

  14. Lots of us south of the border simply nipped up to Argos in Belfast to avail of official Freesat boxes. Most of us have probably put London postcodes in them, rather than NI postcodes, in order to avail of ITV HD (which is not available on UTV as yet). The Sat4Free service will probably sell like hotcakes down here- particularly given that you have a voucher for free installation in the box. Tesco also have good bargains- it’ll be interesting to see if there is any offer on this! I was very pleasantly surprised at the pricing policy down here- its pretty much keeping with UK pricing- normally we get ripped off like nothing else. Makes a pleasant change………

  15. @Shane, fair enough. I have nothing against those South of the border watching it. Just think that if a commercial company are going to make money out of selling it at as a service for the South, then they should be paying a proportion of that back to Freesat as a licensing fee for reinvestment in the programming service for all both North, South and UK.

  16. Alba already own the hardware, they own the software on their boxes (as much as they can since it is based on an open standard). The only thing Freesat owns is the EPG.

    Perhaps sat4free / Alba are paying a % for that, we don’t know. Theonly thing sat4free may cost freesat is the very minor revenue gained from a few grey market sales / import into Ireland.

  17. I would like to take issue with the hare often put up and repeated here by Nigel and others that RTE TG4 and TV3 going FTA would be broadcasting to 60+ million people instead of the 4 million that they have apparently negotiated their viewing rights for.

    If RTE etc were FTA on satellite they would get few extra viewers, especially not for the the US/UK content that they show which is all widely available throughout the satellite spectrum of broadcasts. These stations have a closely geographically defined target audience which wont suddenly change because of an entry on an EPG. What FTA satellite would do for RTE is allow 100% of the target audience to actually recieve the channels. I accept that others would also have access but relatively small numbers of people outside Ireland would be interested in the output of these channels just as I suspect very few of Skys millions actually watch Aquariavision or the Pub Channel.

    If RTE etc were to go FTA on satellite and join the Freesat EPG in the NI region then I think that this would actually promote the spirit of the Good Friday agreement in facilitating equal and total access to Public Service Broadcasting (Both UK and Irish) throughout the whole of Ireland.

    Personally I see Freesat as a great platform because it provides an easily accessible means of providing Digital PSBTV in a package that can take on and provide a good alternative to PayTV. For that reason would like to see to see as many PSB broadcasters as possible on the Freesat EPG.

  18. Yes, the number of actual viewers is probably very small, but the number of potential viewers is much bigger – and in the case of programmes such as Desperate Housewives that sometimes air earlier in the Republic than in the UK, there is a distinct possibility that, if they were widely available FTA, then they would pick up lots of viewers.

    And it’s that possibility that exercises the minds of the sort of people who work in the rights departments – that’s also why, for instance, some programmes are blanked out on the Sky feeds to some regions, or on delay channels, like ITV 2+1.

    People really do get uppity about rights, I’m afraid.

  19. I’m probably repeating what someone else has said, but…

    @ Martin – You said: “As I understood it – the UK FTA channels already pay for transmission rights to the ‘British Isles’”.

    If that’s the case then that would technically include ROI, since the British Isles (controversially) refers to a geographic region, not political/administrative regions.

    And since UK FTA is all paid up and above board, and the EPG is published in an open standard, the only sticking point I can see is the use of the “freesat” name/trademark.

  20. @ Rob – yes – that is essentially what I meant about ‘British Isles’. I may be incorrect – it may be that people are actually turning a blind eye to the overspill/rights – and of course some channels may be more above board than others – who knows. I specifically quoted the term – since I know it can be a controversial term – but didn’t know what better term to use.

    Is the EPG a published open standard – or is use of it supposed to be licensed? It is one thing for PC sat cards to offer Freesat EPG software – it would be quite another for an official freesat box manufacturer to do something similar under an alternative brand name.

    @ Peter & Nigel – it is true that RTE often have US content earlier than UK channels (months earlier in some cases) – and in those circumstances you can be sure it would become a big issue. One way around that would be for RTE to negotiate rights to transmit the latest content along side another UK channel (i.e. simulcast) – that way there would be less over spill. The other area of problems is Sport related of course… e.g. RTE often have Premiership football on a Sat – or certainly did last year every couple of weeks – no UK FTA channel gets that.

  21. Hi.
    Ireland is a divided nation that was divided by outside forces,Thus Part of it is U.K&part of it is the Republic.Most have said everything about rights of costs etc>For those who resent the U.K signal overspilling into the Republic of Ireland I would say that for long time Exclusively U.K Channels are paid for to cable companies or sky by people in R.O.I,also many excellent shows shown on our six domestic networks puts money into those channels as BBC ITv etc are paid for that also.

    I invite the one so especially resentful of R.O.I to read the good friday agreement,May,be also learn some Honest history& dont be fooled into thinking that U.K broadcasters do not make money from either Advertising revenue or cable versions specifically directed to this market.

  22. I have been watching the UK channels for years now. First on a SkyBox then on a triple hybrid tv card (analog. DVB-T and DVB-S). With software such as Powercinema, DVBviewer and now with the Fiji TV-Pack for Vista. At present I have an EPG from Media Center which I can edit to remove all the crappy channels and have only RTE analog and Freesat. Mostly though i use the EPG from DVBviewer on the computer monitor, and use this to rcord. So I have a HD PVR (and Ireland will be using H264 not mpeg2 when they go digital) plus a quad core computer for not much more than a HD PVR is costing.

  23. “One way around that would be for RTE to negotiate rights to transmit the latest content along side another UK channel (i.e. simulcast) – that way there would be less over spill.”

    The reason that RTE do this is to ensure that people in Ireland watch the show (and the ads that pay for the show) on RTE, if it was available at the same time, they would haemorrage a lot of viiewwere – this is a similar situation to Eastenders (on RTE and BBC1) and Coronation Street / Emmerdale on TV3 – the Irish stations try and negate this by leading the UK stations by a few minutes, but I know on our house it is watched on UK channels as much as Irish channels.

    If Irish channels were forced to simulcast everything just to provide a an external service, they might not be able to afford the likes of “Desperate Housewives”, or indeed any high rating shows

  24. Well what happens now that RTE international is apparently not going ahead as planned!
    Winners viewers in ROI
    Losers, Irish expat viewers who still don’t get FTA RTE and have to pay €22 for the priveledge.

  25. Hi. I saw these freesat boxes for sale in Tesco today and was wondering what channels I can get on them if I purchase one. Anybody like to let me know /

  26. Pingback: freesat in ireland
  27. No Irish channels – no thanks. RTÉ 1 & 2 and TG4 are the only things worth watching on satellite.

  28. what is wrong with rte they should be freeview there loosing out big time wake up rte

  29. anybody got a complete list of channels available in ireland as i am thinking about getting a box as sky is costing me €720 a year

  30. I have satfree but Sky News is not listed, I thought it should be can anyone shed some light on this matter, please

  31. I have satfree but am not receiving Sky News which I was led to believe I should. Can someone please shed some light on this matter for me, please

  32. hi ,i got a freesat box up north and i am in the ROI it is asking for a postcode can anybody help,,,

  33. hi ,i got a bush sd, freesat box up north and i am in the ROI it is asking for a postcode ,i have put in a lot of uk postcodes and no joy , i have a sky dish and a goodmans sat for free box that that i got in tescos in the ROI and that works fine, need help ///

  34. Sounds like you have purchased one of the cheap Argos boxes which suffer from a large number of problems; if your dish is working then the receiver is faulty.

  35. Can i buy a freesat box in northern ireland and use it in the south. i want to bring one to donegal where i have a satellite dish (my sky box apparently has died) and i thought this might be a better alternative… can anyone advise me .. and are some satfree boxes better than others?

  36. I bought a fortec star sat system in maplins in derry last week.
    I live in Donegal. I had no problem fitting the dish or aligning it to astra 2 abd but all I can receive is german channels, no bbc or channel 4..

    Can anyone please help?


  37. Its definitely astra 2.

    when it searches through the frequencys the first lot keep failing these are the ones I want. I found all the frequencys on
    the signal intensity is 90% and qaulity is 70% for the foreign channels but ony 40% and 5% for the UK free to air..

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