29 June 2009

89.6% of UK homes have digital

Ofcom's quarterly Digital Television Update has revealed that 89.6% of UK households now have access to digital television on at least one set, and 61% have it on second or third sets, too. 3.4 million DTT receivers were sold in the first three months of the year, of which 2.5 million were integrated digital sets. In total, 9.8 million homes now use Freeview as their main source of digital telly.

28 June 2009

Create & Craft to join Freeview

Tat-peddling shopping channel Ideal World is to start broadcasting a new live service on Freeview. From July 1, Create & Craft will be available on channel 36, broadcasting five hours of live programming every weekday between 08:00 and 13:00. As yet, its unclear where the capacity for this new channel will come from, and what other channels (if any) will be sharing the slot.

Freeview HD launch date set

The BBC has announced that the first high definition broadcasts on Freeview will begin on December 2. Initially only available from the Winter Hill transmitter (serving Manchester and Liverpool), HD services will then be rolled out across the country as the necessary transmission equipment is upgraded. Viewers will need to purchase brand-new receivers to watch HD-DTT channels, which will be using new, more efficient transmission standards.

24 June 2009

ESPN begins broadcasting on DTT

ESPN America has started broadcasting on DTT channel 34, in place of star-crossed sports channel Setanta, which closed all British operations yesterday after being put into administration. The channel is currently only available to view to "current" Setanta and Top Up TV subscribers. According to Top Up TV, you can also start a new "subscription" to the channel, initially free of charge, provided you have the necessary equipment.

23 June 2009

Setanta ceases broadcasting

Setanta Sports has been put into administration. Following the appointment of administrators this afternoon, all Setanta-branded channels in Great Britain, including Setanta Sports 1 (channel 34) ceased broadcasting at 18:00 today. Subscribers watching on DTT are advised, via an on-screen message, to visit setantainfo.com, a website operated by Top Up TV; here, they are asked to register their details in order to receive information about any future "replacement sports service".

22 June 2009

Some sort of switchover report published

Consumer Focus, who are presumably a consumer rights group or some such, have published a report into the digital switchover programme in the Border region. In general, it went quite well: there were reception issues in the sticks, and a lot of householders who can only receive the public service broadcasters' channels were a little bit peeved at not being able to receive the full Freeview service.

Setanta on the brink

Setanta has lost all its English Premier League football matches to ESPN, and looks set to lose the rights to the Scottish Premier League to Sky, effectively signalling the end of the beleaguered sports broadcaster (and possibly the presence of premium sport content on DTT). Although ESPN have hinted at making their coverage available on as many platforms as possible, there's virtually no chance of Sky doing the same.

Update: ESPN plans to launch a new premium channel to carry its content; a carriage deal has already been struck with Sky, and the broadcaster is in negotiations with Virgin Media and BT Vision. A selection of games will also be broadcast in high definition.

19 June 2009

Setanta stripped of Premier League rights

Financially-troubled broadcaster Setanta Sports has been stripped of the rights to broadcast premiership football next season by the Premier League. The channel's owners were unable to make a £30million payment for next season's games today, thus defaulting on their deal. The rights have been put up for sale to other broadcasters with immediate effect. Sky is not allowed to bid for all 46 games, due to competition laws, but could grab half of them. ESPN is widely-tipped to pick up the remainder.

The news comes just hours after the possibility of a merger with Top Up TV was reported. It is as yet unclear if this deal has fallen through or remains on the table.

Spare switchover cash will pay for broadband

Any surplus cash from the Switchover Support Scheme will be used to invest in upgrading the UK's broadband network. Confirmation of the Government's plans was revealed in the Digital Britain report, published this week. They have pledged to provide 2Mbps broadband for every UK household by 2012.

Switchover begins on the Isle of Man

The Isle of Man has become the latest region to start the switch to digital television. In the early hours of this morning, analogue broadcasts of BBC Two ceased, to be replaced by a digital multiplex carrying BBC services. Remaining analogue channels will be switched off - and the full Freeview service will be carried on all of Man's transmitters - from July 16.

Switched to digital
Border region - Whitehaven (Nov 2007)
Border region - east (Nov 2008)
Westcountry region - south east (May 2009)

Switchover in process
Isle of Man

Next to Switch
Border region - west (June 2009)

12 June 2009

Top Up investor buys into struggling Setanta

It would appear that reports of Setanta's death may have been greatly exaggerated, after the news that Top Up TV investor (and US billionaire) Leonard Blavatnik has offered the broadcaster £20million in exchange for a 51% stake in the business. The cash, which will only tide the company over, rather than provide long-term financial support, comes just in time for Setanta, which has been staring down the barrel of an administration gun* for most of this week, and stopped taking on new customers on Wednesday.
*apologies for the terrible metaphor.

USA switches to digital... leaving millions behind

Millions of television viewers in the USA will be left staring at blank screens in a few hours (which, given the general standard of American TV, may actually be an improvement) when analogue signals are switched off nationwide and replaced with digital broadcasts. Rather than the (comparatively) drawn-out region-by-region approach currently underway here in the UK, the Yanks' digital switchover programme could leave 15% of the population without telly at the flick of a switch. The switchover was originally scheduled to take place in February, but was delayed to give consumers more time to prepare.

BBC World Service updated

Listeners of the BBC World Service can now access programme information and news headlines from Freeview channel 710, in line with the service offered alongside the BBC's other radio stations. The service went live on Wednesday.

Ofcom 'reserves' 4th HD slot for Five

Ofcom have awarded rights to broadcast in the fourth high definition Freeview channel slot to Five, it has been revealed. Five's bid beat a joint submission from Channel 4 and S4C, who have already been allocated a slot. HD services will start to be introduced on a regional basis later this year; the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 should be available from launch, with Five set to follow later.

02 June 2009

ITV considering switching to subscription

ITV has been in discussions with Sky over switching it's free channels – ITV2 (Britain's most popular digital-only station), ITV3 and ITV4 – to subscription services. Such a radical move, resulting from a sharp downturn in advertising revenues, would see the majority of ITV's services pulled from Freeview and DTT altogether.