UK firm Vision247 has been steadily working on adding new over-the-top linear channels to the latest version of the UK’s free-to-air DTT platform ‘Freeview’, and has confirmed to IP&TV News that it plans to add many more sports and international channels to its lineup in the near future.
A number of OTT-delivered channels are already available on the new Freeview HD standard, which utilises the Internet connection on some televisions or set-top boxes to deliver OTT content via the EPG. Many of the channels are free-to-air, but some offer subscription packages for additional channels or services.
So far, Vision247 has brought the following channels and packages to Freeview HD: The Vision TV Network, providing access to international language broadcast from TeleFrance (including France24), HellenicTV, Polska+, TeleTurk; a number of channels from Chinese broadcaster China Central Television; sports TV station Sports Tonight, offering news, analysis and debate; Christian TV, bringing together Christian broadcasters Revelation TV and SonLife Broadcasting Network (SBN); and horse racing channel Racing UK.
The company is also planning to expand the international channel roster to to deliver many more in the near future, including dedicated Russian, Italian, Arabic and South Asian channel packages.
Thanks to IP delivery, the channels and services can support live voting, viewer comments and purchases via the remote control, and Vision247 reports that it is currently developing apps for iPhone and Android devices to further support channel/viewer interaction.
Matt Vidmar, chairman and CTO of Vision247, describes a desire to bring online content to the Freeview HD platform at full broadcast quality but with costs “comparable to satellite platforms”, adding that the intention is to make Freeview truly accessible to all broadcasters.
Vision247 has thus invested an immense amount of work in channel acquisition, and has also developed a brand new encoder and server to drive an OVP solution which has been fine-tuned for Freeview HD channel delivery.
As recently as May 2011 however the company was starting the project from scratch: “When we started the project in May last year we had to start from ground zero,” says Mr. Vidmar. “When talking to manufacturers, they could confirm to us that IP input on Freeview HD devices is implemented, but could only confirm that it was tested with VOD content and not with live streams.
“Our main focus was to deliver linear TV channels to the platform, so we started from clean slate, racing to get service operational in beta last December, so that third-party device manufacturers had access to our test streams. They could then start testing and debugging their TV sets and set-top-boxes.
“This process is on-going and it is taking a lot of our developing resources, therefore we are hoping that every new model batch released by the main brands will be better with respect to IP input compliance as specified by MHEG standard for OTT delivery. That then translates into the public having better access to our service for the mutual benefit of manufacturers, retailers, broadcasters and their customers.”
To enable the delivery of OTT channels on the Freeview HD platform, Vision247 has been working with fellow UK firm Connect TV, with the former providing all the channel acquisition, streaming, meta-data, support and Content Management Systems, and the latter providing the broadcast applications, Freeview data and MHEG engineering to provide the linking and rendering on screen.
UK firm Futuresource Consulting recently went on record as saying that by the end of 2014, nearly every home in the UK will be able to access Internet-delivered content on Freeview-branded DTT devices – more details here.