27 December 2007

Review of 2007

At the end of last year's review, the following prediction was made: "2007 looks set to be another exciting year". We weren't disappointed – over the last twelve months, the digital terrestrial platform has seen a wide range of changes, losses and additions. Some were predicted, but last year will be remembered for the surprises...

Ever since Five launched two digital channels on Freeview back in 2006, Top Up TV have been transforming their offering from a bouquet of time-sharing linear channels into the innovative Anytime service, which provides subscribers with a library of on-demand programming. This process continued apace throughout 2007, with the removal of Discovery Real Time, the Discovery Channel and Cartoon Network in February. TCM followed in April, and various other services saw changes to their broadcast hours to facilitate the carriage of new content providers Sci-Fi, the History Channel and Crime & Investigation (November).

In March, Setanta Sports launched their flagship channel on DTT. For the first time since the collapse of ITV Digital, subscribers could watch Premier League, SPL and top-flight European football through their aerial.

The Freeview line-up saw a raft of changes, too. Back in March, ITV Play was dramatically pulled off-air as the first of many scandals surrounding phone-in competitions came to light. Within days, ITV closed the network altogether, and ITV2+1 stepped in to take its place. It wasn't the only channel to be replaced by another from the same broadcaster. Channel 4+1 replaced Film4+1 in August. In October, both UKTV and Virgin Media Television recognised the value of having channels on Freeview and acted accordingly by improving their respective offerings on the platform. UKTV Bright Ideas was scrapped and replaced by a re-branded UKTV G2: Dave. FTN, meanwhile, was replaced by Virgin 1.

More surprising changes included the sudden closure of Disney's ABC1, which despite having a tiny selection of programmes had survived admirably for so long. Radio station 3C closed back in March, replaced "temporarily" by Clyde 1 (which is still here); Radio Music Shop closed back in October. Teachers' TV lost so many hours that it's now only on for 60 minutes a day.

Thomas Cook TV came... and went, having only lasted a few months. Nuts TV, Gems TV and The Jewellery Channel have all joined the line-up – and they look like staying, too. The BBC News Multiscreen grew, and now offers 4 video options.

The UK's digital switchover process finally began in October. By November, the town of Whitehaven and the surrounding area of Copeland in Cumbria, could no longer receive analogue terrestrial television channels. Residents became the first to experience analogue switch-off, and acted as guinea-pigs on behalf of the rest of us!

So far, 2007 sounds fairly similar to any other as far as digital terrestrial is concerned: some channels came, some channels went, switchover moved another step closer. But the year's biggest story hasn't been mentioned yet. Way back in February, Sky dropped a bombshell by announcing their intention to remove their channels from Freeview and launch a subscription service of their own ("Picnic"). Such a move, which requires the approval of Ofcom and has been the subject of a lengthy consultation process (which closed earlier this month), would transform DTT and the entire pay-TV market. It has been widely opposed, but until the outcome of the consultation (and another investigating the wider subscription-television market), the future of Sky's contribution to Freeview hangs in the balance.

So what's to come in 2008? The eagerly-anticipated outcome of Ofcom's consultations will have a massive impact on Freeview and subscription services, but unfortunately the conclusion is impossible to predict. We do know that broadcasters will continue to seek out ways of getting more content and services into our homes. The "big four" terrestrial companies are currently working on plans to get HD on Freeview, and on ways of delivering on-demand content. Inevitably, the line-up will continue to change, and the switchover process will face its first true test with the conversion of the entire Border region to digital. Exciting enough for you?

19 December 2007

2,400,000 Freeview boxes sold in 2007 Q3

Nearly 2.4 million Freeview receivers were sold in the three months between July and September, the second-highest sales figure on record. According to Ofcom’s quarterly digital television report, 9.3 million homes now use Freeview as their source of digital television. 85.1% of UK households now have digital television.

13 December 2007

BBC to consider reducing picture quality on DTT

The BBC are to consider broadcasting their services on Freeview at lower quality in order to facilitate the carriage of more. Other broadcasters, such as ITV and Channel 4 already employ similar techniques on their digital-only channels. The BBC’s capacity will be severely stretched if/when they are forced to carry public service channels such as S4C and Five after switchover.

Ofcom launch “digital dividend” auction

Media regulator Ofcom has launched the process of selling-off the radio spectrum freed up by the UK’s switch to digital television. As well as replacing analogue television signals, digital switchover also tidies up the frequencies being used for TV, creating blocks of spectrum which can be sold more easily. Possible uses include wireless communications, broadband, and possibly even moving pictures.

10 December 2007

BBC Worldwide consider buy-out of UKTV

BBC Worldwide, the independent commercial arm of the BBC, is considering taking complete control of the UKTV network by purchasing Virgin Media Television’s 50% share. The network is already half-owned by BBC Worldwide. It is thought that in the event of a complete take-over, UKTV would switch to a free-to-air/view model, with the possibility of channels moving to Freeview or leaving Top Up TV.

06 December 2007

Freeview to launch “catch-up” on-demand service

Freeview is to launch a “catch-up” service for Freeview Playback and PVR owners. The “push” on-demand service will act in exactly the same way as Top Up TV Anytime, sending pre-selected programming to user’s boxes for them to watch at their leisure. More details are set to be revealed in January. It is estimated that 225,000 Freeview Playback boxes have been sold since the launch of the brand in April.

02 December 2007

ITV News begins widescreen broadcasts

ITV News began broadcasting in widescreen yesterday evening. The channel’s news output had previously been produced in 4:3 but broadcast stretched and cropped into a pseudo-widescreen format on Freeview and other digital platforms. All local ITV news programmes, with the exception of Westcountry, have also switched to 16:9.

UKTV Gold begins widescreen testing

UKTV Gold tested broadcasting programming in widescreen on Friday evening in preparation for the network’s full roll-out of widescreen on all its channels from January 31. Currently, all UKTV channels are broadcast in 4:3, including UKTV History and Dave on Freeview. Virgin Media Television channels – including Virgin 1 and Living – are expected to begin broadcasting in widescreen from the same date.

29 November 2007

The Jewellery Channel launches on Freeview

The Jewellery Channel launched on Freeview channel 44 this evening, at just before 19:30. The channel, which currently broadcasts on Five US in the mornings, will broadcasting in Turner Broadcasting’s spare capacity on multiplex A every night between 19:00 and 21:00.

28 November 2007

Ofcom: Public want more Freeview channels

An Ofcom survey, commissioned to help the media regulator decide what to do with the spectrum freed-up by digital switchover, has revealed that the public would prefer more Freeview channels rather than HD services or mobile television. Nearly 70% of respondents said they could go without mobile television, compared to just over 20% who could live without Freeview.

27 November 2007

Sci-Fi and National Geographic added to Anytime

Programming from the Sci-Fi channel and National Geographic will be available via Top Up TV Anytime from tomorrow. Top Up announced earlier this month that the Sci-Fi channel would be added to the on-demand line-up alongside a fourth channel, only revealed today to be Nat Geo. According to a report, “more channels will follow” in 2008.

23 November 2007

History, Crime & Investigation d├ębut on Anytime

Programming from The History Channel and the Crime & Investigation Network is available on Top Up TV Anytime from this morning. The two new channels will be joined on Wednesday next week by the Sci-Fi channel.

20 November 2007

Broadcasters reveal Freeview HD plan

In a surprise move, the UK’s major terrestrial broadcasters have announced plans to broadcast high definition channels on Freeview. The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five – who all took part in DTT HD trials in London last year – will use “new technologies” and the re-shuffling of channels on various multiplexes to allow for HD channels to be broadcast on one dedicated Freeview multiplex by as early as 2009. The proposals, which will require approval from the BBC Trust and Ofcom, contradict the broadcasters’ earlier claims that extra capacity was needed in order to launch HD channels on DTT. BBC HD was approved for launch yesterday, whilst Channel 4 HD launches next month, and ITV HD is scheduled to begin early next year.

3 new channels coming to Top Up TV Anytime

Three new channels will be added to the Top Up TV Anytime line-up later this month. Programming from The History Channel and the Crime & Investigation Network will become available from November 23, with content from Sci-Fi launching on November 28. A fourth, as yet un-named, channel will also be launching “soon”. Earlier this month, Top Up TV re-arranged its broadcasting schedule in order to free-up more hours for Anytime content.

19 November 2007

BBC Trust approve HD channel

The BBC Trust has approved the full launch of BBC HD, the broadcaster’s high definition channel currently transmitting a trial service on satellite and cable. The service will typically broadcast a 9-hour schedule on these platforms from launch. Plans to launch an overnight “best-of” service on Freeview by using the overnight downtime of BBC Four, BBC Parliament and BBCi have been (sensibly) rejected, but the Trust wishes the full service to be available via DTT “as soon as possible” – not likely to be before switchover.

16 November 2007

Freeview launches advertising campaign

Freeview launches its first television advertising campaign tonight. The promotion, designed to encourage analogue viewers to use Christmas as an excuse to switch over to digital television and buy a digital receiver, will be accompanied by a print campaign pushing Freeview Playback.

14 November 2007

Top Up TV Anytime claim more daytime hours

Top Up TV Anytime 3 has begun broadcasting video tests between 11:00 and 13:00, on top of it’s existing schedule (23:30 to 06:00). Use of the slot, previously occupied by Teachers’ TV, could allow Top Up TV to broadcast more content to Anytime subscribers, or simply to re-arrange its programming schedule.

Britain’s first Analogue Switch-off complete

The first set of transmitters to cease broadcasting analogue television signals in favour of digital broadcasts switched in the early hours of this morning in Whitehaven and Copeland. After BBC Two was switched off last month, residents of the Cumbrian town can now no longer watch BBC One, ITV1 or Channel 4 via analogue television; instead, around 20 channels from three digital multiplexes are available via an aerial (as well as many more via satellite). The move completes the region’s digital switchover programme, which will be followed next year by the remainder of the Border television region.

French digital TV could disrupt Olympic coverage

Digital television transmissions from France could interfere with the equivalent transmissions on England’s south-east coast when the French complete their switchover in November 2011. According to a report from the National Audit Office, the powerful signals from the other side of the Channel will disrupt existing (pre-switchover) domestic signals. The BBC could be forced into bringing forward the switchover dates for the London and south-east regions if the situation is not resolved.

13 November 2007

ITV sign new deal for interactive content

ITV have signed a new, long-term contract with Emuse, an interactive advertising service provider (and the company behind the first “interactive” ad campaign on Freeview). The deal will see interactive content from the broadcaster available on Freeview as well as satellite, and on all channels (not just the flagship ITV1).

09 November 2007

BT Vision claims 60,000 subscribers

BT Vision, the Freeview-plus-broadband on-demand service, had 60,000 subscribers at the end of September, according to its latest report. The company aims to have 100,000 by Christmas, and 3 million by 2010. It is not known how many “subscribers” within the 60,000 figure are in fact BT employees, many of whom have been offered the service for free or at a much reduced cost.

06 November 2007

UKTV Gold hours cut for Anytime extension

Top Up TV subscription channel UKTV Gold now closes at 23:30 each night, rather than at 01:00 the following morning. The change, which took place on November 1, means that Top Up TV Anytime 3 can begin broadcasting an extra 90 minutes of programming every day.

QVC extends carriage contract to 2022

QVC has signed a new contract with multiplex operator SDN to remain broadcasting on Freeview until 2022. Their current deal was due to expire in November 2010. QVC has been broadcasting on “Freeview” since April 2002, when it replaced the now-defunct Shop! channel.

02 November 2007

25 years of Channel 4

Channel 4 is 25 today. Launched as the fourth terrestrial channel for England, Scotland and Northern Ireland on November 2, 1982, Channel 4 now operates 4 channels on digital television – the others being E4, More4 and Film4 – and will operate the UK’s second digital radio multiplex when it launches. Although sometimes controversial, Channel 4 has had a hugely influential effect on British television; its commitment to Freeview has had a hugely positive effect on the platform. Happy birthday, Channel 4, from deeteetee.co.uk.

01 November 2007

Gems TV launches on Freeview

As reported last month, Gems TV has secured transmission capacity on Freeview, and began broadcasting this morning. Found on channel 43, the channel timeshares with Film4 on multiplex D: it’s broadcast hours appear to be from 06:00 to 12:45.

25 years of S4C

Welsh broadcaster S4C celebrates its 25th birthday today. Launched on the evening of November 1, 1982 (the night before the launch of Channel 4 in the rest of the UK), S4C has been the home of Welsh-language programming ever since. Now broadcasting solely in Welsh on digital television, the station also provides coverage of the principality’s Assembly on S4C Two and has plans to launch a children’s channel in the near future. Digital switchover will be a challenging time for the station, but it deserves to be hugely successful. Penblwydd hapus, Sianel Pedwar Cymru, from deeteetee.co.uk.

29 October 2007

Digital UK confirm date for Selkirk switchover

Digital UK, the group overseeing the UK’s switch to digital television, has confirmed the next set of transmitters will begin the switchover process on November 6, 2008. On that day, the Selkirk transmitter and all it’s associated relay transmitters will stop broadcasting BBC Two on analogue, replacing it with a digital multiplex.

19 October 2007

Ofcom to push ahead with HD “migration” plan

Media regulator Ofcom will next month unveil a controversial plan to convert Freeview broadcasts from their existing transmission format to another, more efficient method. The change, from the DVB-T MPEG2 standard (in use in the UK since the launch of ONdigital) to the new DVB-T2 MPEG4 system, will require viewers to buy new set-top boxes in order to continue receiving services. The plan follows Ofcom’s insistence that there is no need to free up more capacity for the launch of additional SD and HD services, thus enabling them to auction-off more frequencies to the highest bidders.

Gems TV to launch on Freeview?

Second-rate, shoe-string-budget satellite shopping channel Gems TV appears to have secured some capacity to broadcast on Freeview, according to the Ofcom website and correspondence with the station. It is unclear if the station will broadcast in the early evening slot (previously occupied by Thomas Cook TV); during the day in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (ABC1’s old haunt); or just during the downtime of an existing Freeview channel.

17 October 2007

Britain’s digital switchover begins

The first step in the UK’s switch from analogue to digital television began in the early hours of this morning in Whitehaven and Copeland. Analogue transmissions of BBC Two ceased at 02:00, and replaced with those of ITV1, in turn replaced by a digital multiplex containing BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, CBBC and BBC News 24 by 03:00. Five is also available on a separate, bespoke multiplex. On November 14, all analogue transmissions will cease, and the area will become the first “digital-only” region of the UK. The remainder of the Border television region will switch in November next year; digital switchover is scheduled to be completed nationwide by 2012.

16 October 2007

Switchover bulletin: 1 day to go

Switchover begins at 03:00 tomorrow morning. Read about how the residents of Whitehaven and Copeland (and many of the switch’s co-ordinators) are bracing themselves for the change here, find out exactly what will happen in the wee small hours here, and follow a live blog from The Guardian’s John Plunkett here. Until tomorrow, then...

15 October 2007

Switchover bulletin: 2 days to go

With just two days until the switchover begins in Whitehaven and Copeland, Digital UK has revealed that up to 20% of households – around 5,000 – still haven’t bought the necessary equipment to receive digital television channels. The local branch of Curry’s has over 2,000 Freeview boxes in stock… they’re obviously expecting a last-minute rush! Meanwhile, Freeview have published a collection of four essays, entitled Notes from the digital sofa, to mark switchover’s arrival this week. Notable points include the controller of BBC News 24 expressing his sadness at Sky’s ambitions to remove Sky News from Freeview; Five’s chief executive’s worries about television’s “lost generation”; and ITV chairman Michael Grade’s calls for Freeview spectrum to be freed up for HD services.

Dave launches on Freeview

Dave (the new name for UKTV G2) has launched on Freeview. At around 06:00 this morning, UKTV History moved to its new home on multiplex D, where it will broadcast from between 07:00 and 18:00 every day. Dave replaced History on multiplex C, and began broadcasting on UKTV Bright Ideas’ old channel number (19) shortly after 07:00. The channel will broadcast from 07:00 to 03:00, 7 days a week. Viewers may need to re-scan their receivers in order to watch both channels.

14 October 2007

UKTV Bright Ideas ceases broadcasting

UKTV Bright Ideas has closed on all digital platforms. Specially designed for Freeview, the channel was designed as a showcase for programming on UKTV’s lifestyle channels available via subscription. It will be replaced tomorrow on Freeview channel 19 by Dave, the new name for UKTV G2. UK Bright Ideas launched on January 15, 2003.

10 October 2007

Whitehaven: one week to switchover

The digital switchover begins in just seven days time in the town of Whitehaven and the surrounding Copeland region: by this time next week, analogue transmissions of BBC Two will have been replaced by a digital multiplex. Alan Cleaver, deputy editor of the Whitehaven News, writes about the forthcoming switch in this article from The Guardian.

04 October 2007

Ofcom launches Picnic consultation

Ofcom, the media regulator, has launched a public consultation on Sky’s plans to launch a subscription service on DTT. The Picnic service would replace Sky’s existing channels on Freeview (Sky Three, Sky News and Sky Sports News) with Sky Sports 1, and two streams of timesharing channels including programmes from Sky One and Sky Movies. Ofcom are considering 3 options: whether to approve the plans; whether to approve but on certain conditions; or whether to reject the proposal. Members of the public can respond to the consultation – and deeteetee encourages you to do so! – by visiting the Ofcom website here.

Radio Music Shop ceases broadcasting

Radio Music Shop has ceased broadcasting on Freeview. Launched in December 2006, available in England and Wales only, the station allowed listeners to buy playlisted artists’ albums by visiting their website or over the phone. The channel is now broadcasting a continuous tone (not available from the shops).

03 October 2007

BBC Radio stations swap multiplexes

BBC Radio stations 1 to 4 moved from multiplex A to multiplex B this morning. Unless their receiver has automatically detected the change, viewers will have to perform a re-scan in order to continue listening to the stations via Freeview. The move, which has not had a detrimental effect on the stations’ bit-rates, means there is only one BBC Freeview service not carried on a BBC multiplex – namely, BBC World Service.

02 October 2007

Teachers’ TV moves to new one-hour slot

Later than originally expected, Teachers’ TV have now moved to their new broadcasting slot of 16:00 to 17:00. The move means the channel for those in the education industry now only has one hour a day on Freeview, compared to six hours when it launched and 24 hours on other digital platforms. UKTV Gold now starts at 17:00 (rather than 16:00) in the evenings to allow for the change.

01 October 2007

Virgin 1 launches on Freeview

Virgin 1, the new flagship channel from Virgin Media Television, has launched on Freeview and other digital platforms. Replacing FTN on channel 20, the channel will broadcast between 18:00 and 06:00 every day, showing a mix of newly commissioned, imported and user-generated programming alongside content from Virgin Media subscription channels such as Living and Bravo.

Sky reveals “Picnic”, pay-DTT offering proposal

Sky has unveiled its proposals for a pay-television service on DTT. Called Picnic, the service would offer three streams showing programming from Sky Sports, Sky Movies, Sky One, a children’s channel and a factual channel on a timesharing basis (similar to Top Up TV). This service would replace the broadcaster’s existing Freeview channels. Sky would provide set-top boxes, manufactured by Sagem initially, which were capable of receiving both MPEG-2 (the system currently used to broadcast channels) and MPEG-4 transmissions, with a view to launching a fourth stream – 24-hour Sky News – in the new format if it is approved by the regulator Ofcom. Sky have chosen today to make the announcement to steal away attention from Virgin Media, who launch their new flagship channel Virgin 1 on Freeview tonight.

FTN ceases broadcasting

FTN has ceased broadcasting on Freeview and other digital platforms. The channel was launched shortly after the launch of Freeview itself, and was designed to be a “shop window” for subscription channels within the Flextech Television Network – channels such as Living, Bravo and Challenge – now called Virgin Media Television. It will be replaced tonight at 21:00 by new channel Virgin 1.

29 September 2007

Bulletin: Virgin 1 and Smile TV

The MD of Virgin Media Television has been speaking about how important Freeview carriage will be to the success of new channel Virgin 1. As ABC1 discovered to it’s cost, primetime hours on Freeview are much sought-after, especially now that digital TV is in 84% of homes. Virgin 1 launches on Monday, at 18:00 on Freeview. Smile TV will broadcast between 03:00 and 07:00 and timeshare with Dave when the latter launches on October 15, according to EPG listings.

BBC to wait on Ofcom before Freeview HD launch

The BBC Trust have given a provisional green light for the corporation to officially launch a High Definition channel, BBC HD. The channel will be available as a full service on cable and satellite, however plans to launch a reduced overnight service on Freeview have been put on hold. The proposal, which involves replacing the BBC’s interactive streams, BBC Parliament and BBC Four with the HD channel for a few hours in the early morning, has been put on hold until Ofcom finalise their plans to (potentially) reorganise the digital terrestrial platform for HD services.

26 September 2007

ABC1 ceases broadcasting

ABC1 has ceased broadcasting on Freeview, cable and satellite. As reported earlier this month, the Disney-owned channel was scheduled for closure before October, however an exact date was never revealed. ABC1 began broadcasting (exclusively) on Freeview on 27 September 2004. Excluding “Playhouse Disney” children’s programming, the channel only ever broadcast 29 shows – and only some of those on Freeview as the channel was never successful in obtaining primetime broadcast capacity.

25 September 2007

Heat Radio re-launches

Heat Radio has launched a new look and new schedule to become the UK’s first “celebrity” station. Now available nationwide on Freeview channel 714 after swapping multiplexes earlier this month, the service has also been made available on more local DAB multiplexes.

20 September 2007

UKTV to launch “Dave” on Freeview

UKTV are to replace UKTV G2 with a new channel called Dave, and launch it on Freeview on October 15. The channel will broadcast between 07:00 and 03:00 on channel 19, replacing UKTV Bright Ideas. It will broadcast in the capacity currently used by UKTV History, which will see its hours on Freeview reduced to 07:00 to 18:00. Rumours G2 would come to Freeview first surfaced last month.

84% of homes now have digital television

84% of UK households now have digital television, according to the latest research from Ofcom. Freeview sales led the growth, accounting for 81% – 763,000 sets – of the net growth between April and June.

18 September 2007

Virgin 1 to launch on October 1

Virgin 1 will launch on October 1, it has been announced. The channel, Virgin Media’s attempt to create a flagship channel to rival Sky One, will be available on all digital platforms – 24 hours a day on most, but only available between 18:00 and 06:00 on Freeview (replacing FTN).

15 September 2007

Bulletin: ABC and BBC

The following snippets of information have come to light in the last 24 hours: ABC1 have confirmed on their website that the channel will not broadcast on any platform “after September”. There had been some confusion surrounding the closing date and whether the channel would continue on satellite or cable. Elsewhere, it has been revealed that BBC Radio stations 1 to 4 will move to multiplex B when they vacate mux A on October 3.

12 September 2007

Nuts TV launches on Freeview

Nuts TV has launched on Freeview channel 42. The channel, a spin-off of lads’ magazine Nuts, will broadcast from 21:00 to 01:00 every night, with live content during the week and recorded highlights at the weekend. Currently exclusive to Freeview, the channel hopes to launch on other platforms shortly.

Heat and Smash Hits! Radio swap multiplexes

Emap radio stations Smash Hits! (Freeview channel 712) and Heat (channel 714) have swapped multiplexes this afternoon. The switch means that Heat is now available nationwide (on mux D), ahead of a massive station re-vamp which will see the station carry talk programming for the first time. Music-only station Smash Hits! Is now carried on mux A, and is no longer available in Wales.

10 September 2007

BBC Radio stations to move multiplexes

BBC Radio stations 1 to 4 will move from their current home on multiplex A to one of the BBC multiplexes on October 3. According to a message on the BBC Radio screens, which have been updated today with the stations’ new logos, viewers will need to re-scan their Freeview receivers in order to continue to receive the channels. The move is in preparation for digital switchover, which begins on October 17.

08 September 2007

ABC1 scrapped

As deeteetee vaguely hinted at last week, Disney have confirmed they will no longer broadcast ABC1 from next month. The inability to extend the channel’s on-air hours on DTT – restricted to 06:00 to 18:00, and not available at all to Welsh Freeview viewers – and the company’s focus on promoting the “Disney” brand were the key factors in the decision to close the channel. No decision on what will replace the channel on Freeview has been made.

Changes on the way for Emap radio stations

According to on-screen messages being carried on the Kerrang! and Heat radio channels, a re-scan will be required on September 12 as Emap radio stations “are changing”. It’s possible that the changes will include the replacement of Heat with a “celebrity” service – as has been approved on various DAB multiplexes – and a permanent replacement for 3C, whose slot is currently broadcasting Glasgow’s Clyde 1.

06 September 2007

S4C launch text service on Freeview

As previously reported on deeteetee, Welsh broadcaster S4C has launched its text service on Freeview. Previously only available on satellite, the bilingual service is now available via the text or red button.

05 September 2007

Bulletin: Rumours, Nuts and um, Bongo

Rumours circulating on the web suggest that a minor but significant television channel will cease broadcasting on October 1. Contenders include The Hits (although this is very unlikely) and ABC1 (who will have been broadcasting for 3 years by then, and could possibly have exhausted their contract). Or, of course, it could be a load of tosh. In other news, Nuts TV is now broadcasting a holding slide in preparation for its launch on September 12, and Television X has been renamed TVX/Red Hot, as the channel will broadcast content from various Red Hot channels on different days of the week from now on.

03 September 2007

Nuts TV placeholder appears

A placeholder for forthcoming Freeview channel Nuts TV has appeared on channel 42. Currently only broadcasting a testcard, the magazine spin-off channel will launch on September 12 at 21:00. Meanwhile, Thomas Cook TV, whose contract to broadcast expired at the end of August, has now been removed from the EPG (channel 41). Nuts TV will broadcast in some of the capacity freed up by it’s removal.

31 August 2007

Thomas Cook TV ceases broadcasting

Thomas Cook TV has ceased broadcasting on Freeview. The channel, which launched on channel 41 in April, had been leasing capacity from Turner (the evening slot previously occupied by TCM).

24 August 2007

ITV considering selling capacity to Virgin Media

ITV are reportedly considering selling some of their Freeview broadcast capacity to Virgin Media, according to Broadcast. It’s thought that plans to launch a movies channel in the space currently occupied by ITV2+1 (and previously the now-defunct ITV Play) have been shelved. Any sale to Virgin would allow them to launch Virgin 1 on Freeview in a 24-hour slot, rather than the current plan to replace FTN (which would only allow broadcasts between 18:00 and 06:00).

21 August 2007

HD should use existing capacity – Ofcom

Ofcom have given the clearest indication yet that no extra capacity will be freed-up post-switchover for High Definition television to be broadcast via DTT. In a letter to The Guardian, Philip Rutnam said “Ofcom believes that it is in the best interests of viewers and the broadcasters to [deliver HD] using the broadcasters' existing spectrum”.

20 August 2007

Channel 4+1 launches on Freeview

Channel 4+1 has launched on Freeview, replacing Film4+1. The service, the first timeshifted version of the “big-five” channels, will appear on channel 13 after a re-scan. This will force a reorganisation of some other channels: More4 moves to 14, E4 moves to 29, E4+1 remains on channel 30, and Film4 moves to 32. Viewers who do not re-scan can keep the previous (more sensible) channel order and watch Channel 4+1 on 32.

16 August 2007

Teachers’ TV broadcasting hours slashed

Teachers’ TV will see its broadcasting hours slashed on Freeview from September 10, when the channel will only be available from 16:00 to 17:00 each day. At launch, the channel was available for six hours overnight; this was reduced to the current two when the Top Up TV Anytime service launched. It now appears another set of changes is imminent – Top Up TV are rumoured to be adding two new channels to the service in September – and Teachers' TV will be losing out.

Top Up TV strengthens board

Jim Hytner has joined Top Up TV as commercial director. Hynter, who has previously worked with company founders David Chance and Nick Markham at Sky and ITV, has also worked for Five and ITV Digital. On the appointment, Chance said “This is an extremely exciting time for our business. We have ambitious plans for the months and years ahead and today's announcement underlines this”.

Article: Chaos Theory

You can read The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman’s article on the scare-mongering surrounding the digital switchover process here.

50% of households 100% digital

Half of all UK households have access to digital television on every television set, according to Ofcom and Digital UK. The survey also revealed that 87% of people are now aware of the switchover, the highest figure since the quarterly review began.

13 August 2007

Currys to sell Setanta set-top boxes

Setanta Sports-ready set-top boxes and subscription cards will be available to buy from Currys from later this month. The electrical chain has ordered 200,000 boxes to sell, and join Tesco and Comet in their support for Setanta’s subscription service. The latest figures suggest that Setanta has around 2.5 million customers in the UK and Ireland, 1.1 million of whom subscribe to the £9.99 service (the rest receive the channels free with their Virgin Media cable package).

08 August 2007

UKTV consider launching G2 on Freeview

UKTV are reportedly considering replacing lifestyle channel UKTV Bright Ideas with a revamped version of entertainment channel UKTV G2. Bright Ideas is tailor-made for Freeview, promoting the family of UKTV lifestyle channels available on other platforms. Virgin Media’s equivalent entertainment channel, FTN, is also to be replaced, later this year. Both channels currently timeshare broadcast capacity on Freeview.

05 August 2007

First Freeview multiplex on-air in Whitehaven

The first digital multiplex to be broadcast in Whitehaven, the first region of the UK to undergo digital switchover, has commenced transmissions. A temporary version of multiplex A carrying only one channel – Five – will be broadcast to the town until the rest of the Border region completes the switchover process in 2009: at this stage, Five will be carried on one of the new PSB (public service broadcaster) multiplexes along with the BBC’s services. According to one Freeview-equipped Whitehaven News reader, “the picture quality is brilliant” – not surprising, considering it’s being broadcast at 24,000 kbps!

03 August 2007

Ridiculous EPG shuffle planned for C4 channels

If someone in the street had told me this story, I’d have laughed them out of town. Sadly, it’s been confirmed that Channel 4’s entire family of digital channels will move to new channel numbers when Channel 4+1 launches on August 20… on channel 13. This means More4 has to move to 14. That means that E4 moves from a prime EPG position to channel 29! E4+1 stays on 30, Film4 moves to 32, and Film4+1 disappears altogether. Which only adds insult to injury, really.

01 August 2007

Channel 4+1 to replace Film4+1 - confirmed

Channel 4 have confirmed on their website’s forum that Channel 4+1 will replace Film4+1 on Freeview when it launches on August 20. The timeshifted version of Film4 will continue to broadcast on other platforms.

31 July 2007

Changes afoot on multiplex B... again.

After reporting (in good faith, mind) that multiplex B would no longer carry the Engineering Channel back in June, multiplex B will no longer carry the Engineering Channel from August 3. The channel, which broadcasts software updates for receivers to download, will remain on multiplex 1. Several theories surround what the move signifies: the BBC could be moving their radio stations not currently on one of their multiplexes to B, or they could be preparing the multiplex for overnight HD broadcasts.

26 July 2007

33 million people: “What Switchover?”

33 million people are still unsure when digital switchover will occur in their region, according to a survey conducted for middleman website uswitch.com. The Border region was the most aware – useful, as they’ll be the first region to switch next year – but only 7% of Midlanders were able to correctly name the date for analogue switch-off there.

24 July 2007

Nuts TV to launch on Freeview

Yes, seriously. Broadcast are reporting that lads’ magazine spin-off Nuts TV will launch on Freeview on September 12, broadcasting between 21:00 and 01:00 every night. The channel is currently broadcast online, and will be live 5 nights a week, with recorded content on the other two. The channel plans to launch on other platforms later.

22 July 2007

Bulletin: Top Up TV, HDTV, PlayStation 3 TV?

Following the launch of the Showcase channel, Top Up TV will carry on-demand programming from British Eurosport from July 25. The future of the live stream – currently just two and a half hours in the morning – has always looked uncertain, but now looks increasingly likely to be scrapped. In other news, Ofcom have claimed that up to 4 High Definition channels could be launched on Freeview if the broadcasters accept its plans to re-arrange the multiplexes. In all likelihood, the plan is unlikely to ever be considered seriously, as all the major channels have been lobbying for an entirely new mux to be created for HD. Finally, you could soon be watching Freeview on your PlayStation 3 (assuming you have yours already): reports suggest Sony are developing an add-on to the next-generation console which would convert the machine into a PVR.

20 July 2007

"4 Music" planned to replace The Hits

Channel 4 and Emap are planning to launch their new joint-venture music channel in January. According to Brand Republic, the service known as "4 Music" will replace The Hits on Freeview early next year.

16 July 2007

BT Vision Sport unveiled

BT have released details of their DTT-plus-broadband service BT Vision’s new sports service. 242 Premier League football matches and 125 Football League games will be available over the course of next season on-demand a few hours after the final whistle: subscription to this service costs £4/month. For £12/month, this offering is enhanced with access to Setanta Sports’ channel. Individual matches will cost £1.99 each.

12 July 2007

CBBC to extend hours?

Broadcast are reporting that the BBC plan to re-launch the CBBC Channel and extend its broadcasting hours to 21:00. The move would require a change to the current timesharing arrangement between CBBC and BBC Three, which uses the kids channel’s bandwidth when it closes at 19:00. Earlier this week, it was revealed that Five Life will extend its hours to midnight, but this extra programming will not be available to Freeview viewers (as the channel timeshares with Television X).

09 July 2007

The Audi Channel on the way to Top Up TV

Top Up TV have signed up The Audi Channel and National Lottery operator Camelot as content providers for its downloads service. The channels will contribute to the new “Showcase” service, which initial reports suggest will be a daily 15-minute block of programmes from a variety of sources, similar to ‘preview’ channels on cable.

100 days to Switchover: Whitehaven prepares

A survey conducted by Ofcom and Digital UK has revealed that all 25,000 households in the Whitehaven region – the first to switch to digital-only television in 100 days time – plan to convert to digital. The news allays fears that a small hardcore of “digital refuseniks” would not attempt to convert and abandon television altogether in protest.

06 July 2007

Ofcom publish post-switchover frequencies

Ofcom has published the frequencies of and strengths at which digital multiplexes will be broadcast post-switchover. The document currently only lists details for main transmitters; full details for each reason will be published closer to each switch – the plan for the Border region can be found here.

05 July 2007

Channel 4+1 to launch on August 20

Channel 4 will become the first of the major terrestrial broadcasters to launch a timeshifted version of their flagship channel when Channel 4+1 launches on all digital platforms (including Freeview) on August 20. Five will launch “+1” versions of Five US and Life on satellite this autumn.

26 June 2007

Ofcom launch Sky subscription plan consultation

11:20 - Ofcom have launched a consultation into Sky’s proposal to replace their three Freeview channels with a subscription service on DTT. In a change to their original plan, the broadcaster no longer plans to use the more efficient MPEG-4 system, which would require new set top box purchases. Ofcom expect the consultation’s findings to be published in the Autumn, followed by an official statement early next year. Until then, Sky are obliged to keep their Freeview channels on the air.
13:15 - Sky have hit back at Ofcom, questioning the need for a consultation, confirming that they still plan to launch a four-channel service, and that they have not ruled out using MHEG-4.

Changes afoot on multiplex B

Multiplex B will no longer carry the Engineering Channel from July 2. The channel, which broadcasts software updates for receivers to download, will remain on multiplex 1. Several theories surround what the move signifies: the BBC could be moving their radio stations not currently on one of their multiplexes to B, for example.

20 June 2007

Freeview overtakes Sky in digital homes

Ofcom’s quarterly report on digital television in the UK has revealed that Freeview-only homes have overtaken those subscribing to Sky for the first time. Between January and March, Freeview households rose from 7.7 million to 8.4 million, thanks to sales of 1.96 million Freeview receivers. Sky has just over 8 million subscribers, and saw the number of new customers added in the period drop below those of cable (Virgin Media) for the first time since 2001. More than 80% of homes now have access to digital television.

19 June 2007

Ofcom will charge for “gifted capacity” in 2014

The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 will all be charged an annual administered incentive pricing fee for their digital television and radio spectrum from 2014. Ofcom say the measure – which could see the BBC paying £48 million each year for its two Freeview multiplexes – will improve efficiency by discouraging wasting capacity… in reality this will most likely lead to a deterioration in quality as broadcasters attempt to squeeze all they can out of the bandwidth they can afford.

Channel 4+1 to launch on Freeview

Brand Republic report that Channel 4+1 will launch on all digital platforms in August in an attempt to boost advertising revenues. It is not known at this stage where the capacity for the service will come from.

15 June 2007

The Premier League

Following yesterday’s announcement of the Premier League football fixtures for next season, the marketing campaigns for television coverage of the Premiership have begun: both Setanta Sports and BT Vision have adverts in national newspapers this morning, and Top Up TV are pushing their service off the back of Setanta’s rights.

14 June 2007

Bulletin: Kangaroo

The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are in talks to develop a “one-stop shop” TV downloads service, codenamed Project Kangaroo. It is claimed the service will do for broadband “what Freeview did for digital TV”, and could be available via broadband-enabled Freeview receivers in the future. Also today, Top Up TV are running a special offer in conjunction with The Mirror, with the Top Up TV+ box available for only £100.

13 June 2007

Bulletin: Setanta freeviews

Setanta Sports will broadcast on Freeview between 19:00 and 22:00 until June 22 to give non-subscribers a taste of what the channel has to offer (and a chance to judge for yourselves what the picture quality is like). In other news, two more Freeview channels have been confirmed: TVNZ6 will launch in September and TVNZ7 will follow in March 2008. Sorry, should have said that’s on Freeview in New Zealand.

12 June 2007

Bulletin: Goal...accio!

The Guardian reports that Virgin are playing down suggestions that Virgin 1 – the new 18:00 to 06:00 channel to be launched on Freeview – is a “knee-jerk reaction” to the cable firm losing carriage of Sky One. They also report that Five have bought the rights to live games and highlights from the Italian Seria A football league starting this autumn.

11 June 2007

Virgin 1 to launch on Freeview

Broadcast reports that Virgin will launch a new general entertainment channel, Virgin 1, on Freeview this Autumn. It will replace FTN, which currently acts as a shop window for Virgin’s subscription channels on satellite and cable. Unlike Sky, who want to take their channels subscription-only, it would appear that Virgin now want to directly challenge Sky One with the new free-to-view channel: Virgin Media Television’s MD wants Virgin 1 and the newly reinvigorated Living to be two of the top 10 TV channels by switchover”.

Report: As Switchover looms, questions remain

The Guardian newspaper (which incidentally publishes its 50,000th issue today) has published a special report on the dispute between broadcasters, Ofcom, lobby groups and manufacturers as to what to do with the freed-up spectrum released by the switchover process. You can read the article, ‘Access All Aerials’ by clicking here.

02 June 2007

BBC HD trial channel closes on DTT

BBC HD has ceased broadcasting from the Crystal Palace transmitter in London. The BBC’s trial channel continues to broadcast on satellite and cable, following the BBC Trust’s decision to begin a public value test into a full launch of the service: on DTT, however, the 12-month licence to broadcast the channel has now expired. If approved, HD programming could be broadcast on multiplex B overnight, providing a HD “catch-up” service to viewers with compatible equipment.

30 May 2007

Capita win first Switchover help scheme contract

Capita, the company that collects the TV licence fee, has been awarded the contract to provide help with digital switchover to the residents of Whitehaven, beating three other companies including (as reported earlier this month) BT. From June, the company will provide financial and technical support for the elderly, disabled and poor to make the switch to digital. Switchover begins in the town in October.

29 May 2007

Switchover spectrum sale stalled

Ofcom has been forced to delay its proposals for what it will do with the broadcast frequencies freed up after digital switchover, due to an overwhelming response to its consultation on the matter. Whatever they choose will be controversial - broadcasters want to use it for HD channels, while mobile phone companies are eager to get their hands on it for new features like, erm… mobile television. The results of the consultation will now be released in the Autumn.

25 May 2007

Wales and the North lead digital take-up

The results of Ofcom's 2006 survey show that Wales has the highest proportion of digital television viewers. 82% of homes enjoying digital TV in the principality, followed by 76% in Scotland, 75% in England, and 69% in Northern Ireland. The UK average is 75%. Within England, the North leads take-up of digital with an average of over 78%, compared to London and the South East where the average is around 70%.

24 May 2007

ITV: Lend us a multiplex, Gov!

The chairman of ITV has made an audacious offer to the Government in a bid to secure more DTT capacity. Michael Grade has suggested that Freeview will face a big problem a few years down the line because it doesn’t have the capacity to carry High Definition programming. As a solution, he suggests the Government “loan” ITV (and possibly other commercial broadcasters) more capacity to broadcast using a more efficient transmission system. Once everyone has switched over to the new system, the “old” (existing) Freeview spectrum can be sold off. In other words, it’s digital switchover take two. The idea is completely ridiculous, but you can’t fault him for trying.

22 May 2007

BBC Trust to decide on BBC HD channel

The BBC Trust have launched their “public value test” into the BBC HD channel, currently only available as part of a trial on DTT. If approved, the BBC will officially launch the full service on satellite and cable and an overnight stream of the channel on DTT, using bandwidth from multiplex B (allowing viewers with compatible equipment to record programmes for later viewing). A decision is expected in November. The trial will continue to broadcast until then.

16 May 2007

S4C launch kids channel consultation

As reported earlier in the year, Welsh-language broadcaster S4C is to launch a consultation into launching a children’s channel. The service, which would be available on Freeview in Wales, follows the trend of terrestrial stations shifting kids programmes onto dedicated channels.

Freeview Playback website launched

Freeview Playback, the new brand representing Freeview PVRs, now has its own dedicated website at freeviewplayback.co.uk.

15 May 2007

Sky’s subscription plans dealt blow by Ofcom

A consultation into Sky’s plans to replace its three Freeview channels with a new 4-channel subscription package on DTT have been delayed by the media regulator Ofcom. Three aspects of the proposal are being investigated: the terms of Sky’s broadcast licence; the use of new compression technology; and the plurality of news services available on Freeview: the removal of Sky News from Freeview would leave only one rolling news channel, BBC News 24. In a statement, Ofcom said "Additional information is required before the formal application process can begin. Ofcom has asked the parties to provide this information. When Ofcom has received the information, Ofcom plans to launch a consultation on the proposals."

14 May 2007

Digital UK launch teletext aerial test

Viewers can test the strength of their existing television reception using Digital UK’s new switchover aerial test. Available on page 284 via Ceefax on BBC One and BBC Two, Teletext on ITV1 (analogue) and Channel 4 (analogue), and Sbectel on S4C, the test is designed to predict the suitability of reception for DTT post-switchover.

10 May 2007

BT Vision to launch advertising campaign

BT Vision will unveil it’s first ever marketing campaign at the weekend when television advertisements for the service begin. So far, the Freeview plus broadband service has only been given a “soft-launch” to allow the company to sort out any technical flaws with the service before a high-profile launch later this year.

04 May 2007

BT bid for Switchover assistance contract

The bidders for the contract to operate the BBC’s £600 million switchover help scheme for the elderly, disabled and poor have been revealed. BT, Capita, EAGA and Vertex have all put their names forward: the winner will be decided by the BBC Trust later this year.

01 May 2007

On-screen captions: get ready, Whitehaven

Viewers in Whitehaven, the first place in the UK to switch to digital, will see on-screen captions on all analogue television channels from next week warning them about the switchover. BBC Two analogue will be switched off on October 17, followed by the remaining three analogue channels by November 14.

27 April 2007

BBC and ITV to launch Freesat

Less than an hour after the BBC Trust approved plans for the BBC to launch a digital satellite equivalent of Freeview, the Corporation and ITV have announced plans to launch Freesat by Spring 2008. The two broadcasters have been working behind-the-scenes for months with box manufacturers to ensure the technology is in place: there will be a choice of SD and HD boxes, and around 300 television and radio channels are expected to be available. Satellite coverage is around 98%, compared to 75% DTT coverage, so the new platform is designed to offer free digital television to those currently unable to get Freeview.

24 April 2007

BBC invent HD bandwidth transmission system

The BBC’s Research and Development team have invented a new transmission method for delivering twice the bandwidth that can currently be delivered via each DTT frequency. In very over-simplified terms, 2 signals are sent on the same frequency in slightly different directions and at slightly different times. Don’t expect HD just yet, though: the “spatially multiplexing” requires new transmitters to be built and you’ll need a new aerial and box. Still, sounds exciting, doesn’t it.

19 April 2007

Freeview overtakes Sky in digital homes

More people in the UK now watch digital television via Freeview than through Sky satellite, according to the latest figures. 11 million homes now have access to DTT, with 8.2 million relying exclusively on Freeview for access to digital television.

Freeview Playback launched

Freeview have officially unveiled the Freeview Playback brand of digital television recorders today, allowing customers to replace their existing analogue recorders which will become virtually obsolete after switchover. Playback-stickered machines will be available in the shops from next month, retailing at around £130.

17 April 2007

Thomas Cook TV launches on Freeview

Thomas Cook TV has launched on Freeview channel 41. A placeholder for the channel appeared this afternoon, which will broadcast between 19:00 and 22:00 daily (although broadcasts did not begin until around 21:00). The placeholder for TCM has been removed from channel 25, but no other channel changes have occurred.

14 April 2007

Thomas Cook TV to launch on Freeview

Thomas Cook TV plan to launch on Freeview on April 17, in place of TCM (Top Up TV) between 19:00 and 22:00 daily. It is assumed the remaining hours vacated by TCM will be used for Anytime programming. According to a company e-mail, there will also be an EPG re-shuffle to accommodate the recent Top Up TV line-up changes.

06 April 2007

Border region switchover details revealed

Ofcom has published the first edition of the Digital Switchover Transmitter Details document for the Border region. It details the frequencies to be used by the six post-switchover multiplexes, which will be re-named PSB (Public Service Broadcasters) 1-3 and COM (Commercial broadcasters) 4-6 from the existing alphanumeric system.

03 April 2007

TCM channel leaves Top Up TV on April 16

Turner Classic Movies will only be available on Top Up TV Anytime (and no longer broadcast as a linear channel) from April 16. The original Top Up TV service, now no longer available to new subscribers and reduced to £4.99/month for existing customers, will then be reduced to 2½ hours of Eurosport, 3 hours of UKTV Style, and 9 hours of UKTV Gold per day.

National Grid Wireless bought by Arqiva

National Grid Wireless (the owner of two Freeview multiplexes and the company responsible for the distribution of the BBC’s Freeview and radio services) has agreed to sell its business to Arqiva (the company that broadcasts multiplexes A and 2) for £2.5 billion. Arqiva bought their existing transmission sites from NTL for £1.27 billion back in 2004.

02 April 2007

Teletext Cars closed?

Teletext Cars (channel 102) appears to have closed on Freeview, carrying nothing but a message directing viewers to their website. The move could be a capacity-saving move in preparation for the Teletext Extra service set to be launching soon.

Virgin Media launch DTT offering

Virgin Media have launched a range of new services to customers living outside cabled areas using a Freeview box to provide the television element of their packages. The Virgin-branded box is free to customers taking 8Meg broadband and the “Talk Anytime” package, and £40 to those taking the broadband service alone. Customers may purchase up to five additional set-top boxes.

29 March 2007

Clyde 1 only a temporary replacement for 3C

Emap have confirmed that Clyde 1 is not a permanent replacement for closed country music station 3C. Emap said it would unveil a permanent replacement for the station - which it claimed “[lacked] the potential for scale or growth” - on Freeview and DAB within the next few months.

28 March 2007

Emap and C4 to launch new Freeview channel

Media group Emap and Channel 4 are to launch a new joint-venture channel on Freeview, offering music videos and youth programming. As deeteetee reported in February, the two companies have been in discussions for some time over the new venture, which sees Channel 4 gain control over more Freeview capacity and gives Emap access to better quality programming. The new channel will launch in place of Emap’s The Hits channel.

27 March 2007

Clyde 1 replaces 3C on Freeview

As previously reported, 3C has left Freeview today and has been replaced by its Scottish sister station Clyde 1. 3C, which was available on Freeview and in some parts of the country via DAB, was the UK’s only national radio station to broadcast from Scotland: it has now ceased operations entirely. Clyde 1 broadcasts to Glasgow and West Central Scotland on FM: it is not clear at this stage if it is only a temporary addition to the Freeview line-up.

26 March 2007

Reports: 3C to close?

Presenters on country music station 3C are warning listeners that the station is about to close. The station, available on Freeview channel 724, is owned by the beleaguered Emap group, who are looking to off-load radio stations in an attempt to sure-up their business.

20 March 2007

Ofcom to investigate pay-television market

At the request of BT [Vision], Top Up TV, Setanta Sports and Virgin Media, media regulator Ofcom is to launch an investigation into the UK pay-television market. In other words, they will investigate the dominance of Sky and whether they should be referred to the Competition Commission. Despite not yet having received an application, Ofcom will also pre-empt Sky's "plan" to launch a pay service on DTT by investigating the effect it would have on the marketplace. Sky have responded in a typically-childish manner, claiming "BT, Top Up TV and Setanta all have a commercial interest in preventing Sky from increasing customer choice by developing a new pay-TV service on DTT".

15 March 2007

Switchover begins on October 17

The switchover from analogue to digital terrestrial television will commence on October 17, Ofcom confirmed today. Viewers in Whitehaven (Border region) will see on-screen messages from May advising of the switch; BBC Two analogue will be switched off on October 17; the remaining analogue channels will cease transmissions on November 14. "At least 18" Freeview channels will be available.

ITV2+1 launches on Freeview

ITV2+1 has launched on Freeview channel 31. The channel is a time-shifted version of ITV2 (surprisingly) and will broadcast 24 hours a day. It is expected that ITV2+1 will only be a temporary addition to the DTT line-up while ITV develop a new channel for the slot, possibly ITV Movies.

14 March 2007

3.8 million Freeview receivers sold in 2006

GfK sales figures reveal 3.8 million DTT receivers were sold last year, with the total number of DTT-only households up to 7.7 million. This figure does not include households with other digital television providers who use DTT boxes for "second-sets". 77.2% of the UK now has digital TV.

13 March 2007

ITV Play scrapped, ITV2+1 to launch on Freeview

ITV's money-making premium-rate phone-in channel ITV Play has been closed and will not return as a standalone channel (although quiz television shows will still be shown overnight on ITV1 and ITV2). The channel will be replaced on Freeview by time-shift channel ITV2+1 on Thursday, March 15.

06 March 2007

Sky consider keeping Freeview channels

As suspected, Sky are reportedly reconsidering their decision to remove their three channels from Freeview in order to launch a subscription service on digital terrestrial. Already facing significant audience losses on their flagship channel Sky One (since it was removed from the Virgin Media cable line-up), Sky are now considering throwing films and football at the channel to keep advertisers happy. This strategy would replace their ridiculous idea to launch a Sky-in-miniature service on DTT.

Teletext rolls out new look

The new-look Teletext on ITV and Teletext on 4 services have been rolled out onto Freeview today. Pressing text is now a very purple affair.

05 March 2007

ITV Play suspended

ITV is to suspend premium-rate phone-in channel ITV Play and all associated programmes on ITV1 and ITV2 with immediate effect. While an audit of the channel's practises is carried out, no competitions will be broadcast. Programming will return on an individual basis.

02 March 2007

Top Up TV placeholders removed

Placeholders for old Top Up TV and pay-per-view services have now been removed from the Electronic Programme Guide. Closed channels (including Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network and the Top Up TV Promo) will no longer appear on set-top boxes after a re-scan.

01 March 2007

Setanta Sports launches

Setanta Sports have launched their new subscription service on DTT. Viewers will need to re-scan their receivers in order to pick up the new channel, which broadcasts between 12:00 and 03:00 daily, on channel 34. Setanta Sports will be bringing subscribers top-flight European football, US PGA golf and Magners League rugby, 7 days a week.

27 February 2007

Teletext to launch "Extra" listings service

Teletext is to re-brand with a new purple livery and launch a new service on Freeview, Teletext Extra, which will include a 14-day television listings guide. A launch date for the new services has not been announced, although you can already see the new look on Teletext Holidays, on Freeview channel 101.

26 February 2007

Channel 4 to take over The Hits?

Channel 4 is considering a joint venture with troubled media company Emap to run its music channels. The deal, which would give Channel 4 access to The Hits on Freeview, would see the broadcaster become MTV's biggest competitor in the UK.

22 February 2007

Four-screen BBC News Multiscreen launched

The BBC have updated the News Multiscreen on Freeview. The service, available on BBCi page 1001 or via the red button, now carries widescreen News Headlines, News Extra, Sport and Weather loops.

14 February 2007

Cartoon Network leaves Top Up TV

Cartoon Network has left the linear Top Up TV service. The encryption was removed shortly before 10:00 this morning (an hour before the scheduled finish time for the channel) before the broadcast ceased altogether a few minutes later. I know because I was watching it. Cartoon Network programmes are still available on Top Up TV Anytime. The linear Top Up TV service is now down to just 20½ hours per day.

09 February 2007

Sport and Weather for BBC News Multiscreen

The BBC has confirmed that the News Multiscreen will be expanded at the end of February with the addition of sport and weather loops. The Freeview service will then have a total of four extra streams, compared to the full five-loop service (the fifth being Entertainment) on satellite.

08 February 2007

Sky to launch subscription service on DTT?

Sky plan to launch a new subscription service on DTT in the summer. The capacity currently used by Sky's three Freeview channels (Sky Three, Sky News and Sky Sports News) will be used to broadcast an extra MPEG4 stream - meaning these channels will no longer be available on Freeview and that a new box will be required to view the content. A monthly subscription will be charged for content, likely to include Premiership football and premium content. The service is yet to receive the green light from Ofcom, and highlights how seriously Sky is taking the threat of rival pay-TV providers (such as BT, Top Up TV and Setanta Sports) taking away revenue from satellite subscriptions.

Top Up TV Promo channel returns

The Top Up TV Promo channel has recommenced broadcasts on Freeview. The promotional video, found on Freeview channel 43, broadcasts between 13:00 and 23:00 from now until the end of February, when the Setanta Sports channel begins broadcasts.

Teletext Games launches

Teletext's latest channel, Teletext Games has fully launched on channel 103. The text service allows viewers to play games on a pay-per-play basis. The channel is the first commercial games service on DTT since the closure of YooPlay.

07 February 2007

Discovery Channel leaves Top Up TV

The Discovery Channel will no longer broadcast on channel 27. The Top Up TV channel has been removed to make way for the new Setanta Sports channel, which launches on March 1. Programming from the channel is available via the Top Up TV Anytime service.

06 February 2007

Setanta Sports launches on March 1

Setanta Sports' new subscription channel, exclusively available on DTT, will start broadcasting on March 1. Viewers will need a Top Up TV box, Freeview box with a card slot, BT Vision box or IDTV with a CAM: they will also need a subscription card. The monthly subscription charge will be £10.90/month; a £10 connection fee applies, but there is no minimum contract period.

Broadcasters want HD for All

A coalition called HDForALL have launched a campaign for high definition TV to be made available on Freeview. Not suprisingly, it's made up of HD television manufacturers, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five.

2 million Freeview boxes sold in 2006 Q4

2,000,000 Freeview receivers were sold in the last 3 months of 2006.

05 February 2007

Discovery Real Time leaves Top Up TV

Discovery Real Time will no longer broadcast on channel 42. The Top Up TV channel has been removed to make way for the new Setanta Sports channel, which launches on March 1. Programming from the channel is available via the Top Up TV Anytime service.

04 February 2007

Top Up TV Promo to return

Top Up TV's Promo channel will resume broadcasting on February 8. The promotional video will be carried on channel 43, between 13:00 and 23:00. In other news, Top Up's linear television service (British Eurosport, UKTV Gold and UKTV Style) is no longer available to new subscribers.

26 January 2007

TDN to be replaced by DMOL

The technical guardian responsible for co-ordinating changes to the digital terrestrial platform (including the allocation of channel numbers) is to be replaced by a new, more formal organisation. DTT Multiplex Operators Limited (or DMOL) will take over from The Digital Network (TDN), but will continue to be owned by the BBC, National Grid Wireless, S4C Digital Networks, ITV and Channel 4.

25 January 2007

Changes afoot in February

There will be a few more changes to the channels broadcast on Freeview and Top Up TV in February, it would appear. Top Up TV have confirmed that their channel line-up will be changing: the Discovery Channel, Discovery Real Time and Cartoon Network will be dropped from the live channels service (programmes still available on Anytime), and British Eurosport moves to a morning slot (7:30 to 10:00). This frees up a slot between 9:00 and midnight for Setanta Sports. Meanwhile, the Film4 listings now cease at 4:00, all but confirming that a new channel will be timesharing with it between 4:00 and noon. Rumours suggest it could be financial channel Bloomberg.

22 January 2007

BBC test 4-screen News Multiscreen

The BBC have been conducting tests for the expansion of the News Multiscreen on Freeview from 2 to 4 screens. Following the removal of the quarter-screen BBC Parliament video, channel 302 has been carrying four quarter-screens with audio in anticipation of the new service’s launch later this year.

18 January 2007

BBC may be forced to carry C4 services

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has announced (as part of the BBC’s licence fee settlement) that she is still "keeping open" the idea of the BBC giving Channel 4 £14m and digital spectrum for a TV channel and three radio stations (on Freeview). Channel 4 currently uses capacity on three multiplexes, and the BBC also faces the prospect of finding Five and S4C post-switchover carriage.

17 January 2007

S4C yn datgelu eu delwedd brand newydd

Mae S4C yn cyflwyno delwedd brand newdd fydd yn arwain y Sianel at yr oes ddigidol-yn-unig a thu hwnt. Mae’r brand newydd, a lansir ar 18 Ionawr, yn cyflwyno diwyg ac agwedd gyfoes a fydd i’w gweld ar wasanaethau S4C ar yr awyr, oddi ar yr awyr ac ar-lein. Mae’n cymryd lle'r brand presennol a ddefnyddiwyd ers 1993.
Click here for the English translation!

12 January 2007

Freeview will win switchover battle

A report by Jupiter Research has stated the bleeding obvious, by suggesting that Freeview will be more popular than subscription platforms at digital switchover. The report suggests that there will be an extra 4.6 million homes with Freeview in the next five years, compared to just 1.2 million for satellite, 700,000 for cable and, interestingly, 1 million for TV via broadband.

11 January 2007

Quiet news week

The quarter-screen BBC Parliament stream has finally been removed from channel 305: a full screen service has been available on channel 81 since last year. The capacity will almost certainly be used to add two further loops to the BBC News Multiscreen.

03 January 2007

Movers and shakers

The new year has bought with it a few changes to commercial presentation programming on Freeview channels. Thomas Cook TV has moved from FTN to Five US, replacing iBuy. Following so far? Quiz Call has also abandoned FTN, replacing the Great Big British Quiz on Five US (and on Five Life on cable and satellite). Meanwhile, the future of ITV Play looks uncertain, following confirmation that Quiz Mania is to be axed and The Mint is under review… ITV could use the channel’s slot for ITV Movies.