Why freesat is betting the house on HTML5

Author: Giles Cottle is Head of Strategy at freesat

Let’s be honest, we all love free carbs and sugar on a Monday morning, so as a newcomer to freesat – I started three weeks ago, heading up our strategy team – I enjoyed starting my week with doughnuts at freesat Towers to celebrate our 3 millionth sale. But more importantly to me, we also announced the imminent launch of YouTube on the freesat <free time> platform. This is ground breaking for the UK on a number of levels

YouTube, of course, is already on a range of connected devices and services worldwide. But what we have here at freesat is the first deployment outside of the US of the HTML5 version of YouTube on a TV platform – which, in our humble opinion, looks fantastic. In fact <free time> is the first free TV platform to have launched this version of YouTube, and is the only free TV platform in the world to have done so, something we are particularly proud of.

Typically, any content provider – and in this case the world’s leading User Generated provider – will only launch services on the biggest platforms or devices with the greatest numbers of viewers or users. freesat, although one of the fastest growing UK TV platforms, is far from the biggest. So why did YouTube chose us?

The answer lies in our overall strategy. We are all about viewers. What they want, and what we think they might want – is what we will seek to deliver. When talking to viewers, the statement that comes up time and time again is that people have access to hundreds of channels, but think there’s never anything to watch. We want to put a stop to this, and we want <free time> to be the platform that allows viewers to get all of the content they want, easily and quickly, on one platform.

Today that content is still, by and large, broadcast TV. We each watch over four hours a day of it and rising, on average. But our customers also tell us that, beyond the broadcast services they love, they want access to a few extra online big brands that they also value. And online brands don’t come much bigger than YouTube, as the thousands of Twitter mentions of our deal on Monday goes to show.

And the technology choices we made 18 months ago when delivering <free time>, some of which were extremely risky at the time, have allowed us to deliver this. Not to labour the point, but open standards are at the heart of <free time>. <free time> is based on HbbTV, the hybrid TV standard which, although becoming increasingly accepted in Europe, has not yet been widely adopted in the UK, where most providers have chosen to use proprietary standards.

And we built our user interface in HTML5, a step few TV providers have taken. We chose to use HTML5 for a few reasons. While there was still some integration work to be done to add YouTube to <free time>, it was achieved far more quickly within an HTML5 framework than would otherwise have been possible (this also reduced the time that the rest of team freesat had to suffer the awful, power ballard-centric music tastes of Raj, our technical lead, while the app was being tested).

HTML5 also gives us the advantage of flexibility and agility, which is crucial for players like us. And we think it looks great, and allows us to do lots of things with user interfaces that would not have been possible with proprietary technologies.

We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved with the YouTube app, but we certainly aren’t resting on our laurels. The new services and features we’re planning to add to the platform will all be about increasing choice, about giving our viewers more options to watch really desired content and, hopefully, putting an end to people thinking there’s never anything on TV.

Giles Cottle is Head of Strategy at freesat

This post originated from freesat’s new blog site.

59 thoughts on “Why freesat is betting the house on HTML5”

  1. Tony Rogers said:
    Once again the cry of “My old set/box won’t work this new stuff” !
    Of course it won’t…it’s called progress.
    You need to work harder, give up smoking and spend more money
    on technology. Give your old equipment to the poor and start to
    feel like a better person.
    There are sheds full of people in China and Taiwan who need your
    input in order to achieve the dream of “The Golden Widget”.
    This widget will never date or be improved on. Oh Yeah ?

    What do you mean give to the poor? I AM poor and when I tried to give away my useless VCR recorder on Freecycle, nobody wanted it and it went to the tip.
    I have had Freesat for three years and nobody has asked me my opinion. I do many surveys online and Freesat is rarely mentioned.
    i to, have a cultural objection to subscription TV (and anything remotely connected with Rupert Murdoch. As I am now 75, I don’tOn’t even have to pay for the BBC. And because of my age I cannot afford to upgrade my three SD boxes either until they breaqk down

  2. I see numerous typos above because while typing I could not see the edges of the box. What is wrong with this site?

  3. Alison Fairgrieve said: What do you mean give to the poor? I AM poor and when I tried to give away my useless VCR recorder on Freecycle, nobody wanted it and it went to the tip.
    I have had Freesat for three years and nobody has asked me my opinion. I do many surveys online and Freesat is rarely mentioned.
    i to, have a cultural objection to subscription TV (and anything remotely connected with Rupert Murdoch. As I am now 75, I don’tOn’t even have to pay for the BBC. And because of my age I cannot afford to upgrade my three SD boxes either until they breaqk down

    I sort of sympathise. It’s a shame nobody has ever thought of bringing out a Freesat dvd vcr hdd unit with twin-tuners and hd reception;Panasonic has such a unit out albeit single tuner Freeview sd only with 250gb hard drive triple speed vhs hifi stereo vcr and multiformat dvd recorder and the facility to play photos and video and audio files from usb pendrive.

  4. **Anthony*** Ref your idea of a Freesat dvd vcr hdd unit with twin-tuners and hd reception–Where you thinking of V2000 or Betamax

  5. So HbbTV is possible on the HDR. HibbTV is used in Europe and can deliver interactive TV. This is the first implementation of HTML 5 YouTube on a FTA system.

    Therefore if Freesat had not made the choices they had made to go for HTML5 people with a G1 Humax could have probably got YouTube. Since it is already being programmed for other services elsewhere in Europe it would not have been difficult to port.

    Therefore in other words because we decided to go for HTML5 it looks great for new users, but for current users tough.

    To be fair I can understand why you cannot keep holding back what new users get to please the people who already have boxes, but are Humax delivering more on the same G1 HDR hardware platform elsewhere and if so could they just leak the code to someone who can develop a custom firmware for the rest of us?

    The problem for Humax is I think my box will probably still work fine in 20 years time, so why upgrade…

  6. james smith said: **Anthony*** Ref your idea of a Freesat dvd vcr hdd unit with twin-tuners and hd reception–Where you thinking of V2000 or Betamax

    No none of those two formats. Having a VHS triplespeed vcr in such a unit would allow people with extensive VHS home video collections of family tapes and/or VHS tape releases to enjoy those and/or transfer the family video tapes to DVD to preserve those memories further(tape doesn’t last forever). Also with it having a twin Freesat HD tuner, VHS triplespeed VCR, hard drive and multifunction DVD recorder, people can watch on channel whilst recording another, and if they want to, make acceptable quality copies of the Freesat SD/HD broadcasts for themselves onto DVD and/or VHS.

  7. ****Anthony**** Being more serious, if you want personel copies of Freesat broadcasts, as long as you do not have the Freetime box it is easy. It just needs a flash drive and modestly priced software—People still use video tape!!! What about 8 track?

  8. Back to the HTML5 subject. If Giles Cottle is making such a noise about the future of HTML5 and how good it is, then why make us consumers pay £279 for a piece of new hardware when Freesat and ITV can’t even implement ITV Player in this format??

    I have to say I was pretty appalled and disappointed to find out that the Humax HDR-1000s has a second rate ITV Player using the old MHEG format. Having experienced the ITV Player on Youview, it is completely worlds apart – much like the web version.

    I was also disappointed to find out that the Freesat ITV Player being used on the new Humax is the same application from the G1 boxes. Thats progress for you!

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