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Freesat: “Free-to-air will continue to compete with pay”

Matthew Huntington,  Chief Technology Officer, Freesat

Matthew Huntington,
Chief Technology Officer, Freesat

IP&TV News talks to Matthew Huntington, Chief Technology Officer, Freesat…

IP&TV News: Has the boom in mobile viewing surprised you? How far do you expect the trend to develop?

Matthew Huntington: The appeal of mobile viewing lies in convenience. People love the ability to watch what they want, where they want. However, due to the data caps on networks and the real or perceived costs of viewing video on mobile data plans, the majority of mobile viewing is still largely restricted to home Wi-Fi networks. We believe that it will continue to be limited until network delivery becomes more reliable and less expensive. When that occurs, TV viewing will continue to be the most popular in the home with mobile viewing the preferred option when a big screen TV is not available.

How is Freesat reacting to this trend and exploiting it?

At the beginning of the year we launched the Freesat App, which allows viewers to control their set-top-boxes, record items remotely and access the TV guide from their iOS and Android devices. For us the focus has been on bringing greater convenience to help users discover great programming and manage their viewing. That’s not to say we won’t directly support mobile viewing in the future.

What does Freesat think constitutes the optimal modern viewing experience? What innovations does it think it’s been able to offer here?

Watching a big screen TV from the comfort of your sofa continues to be the optimal viewing experience particularly because it’s relaxing and allows people to watch collectively with a simple and managed level of choice. Freetime, Freesat’s connected TV service, provides just this. As well as a traditional TV guide, Freetime supports a seven-day rollback guide that is an intuitive way to discover and watch some of the best catch-up TV.  Freetime’s recommendations service, Showcase, enables viewers to quickly find the very best upcoming and On Demand programmes, picked exclusively by our dedicated editorial team. Freetime’s services are all supported by the Freesat App, further enriching the viewer experience.

Does the modern ecosystem make it easier or harder for free services to compete with pay services and why?

The free-to-air market will continue to compete effectively with pay through strong programming on our telly each night, such as Downton Abbey, Gogglebox and Peaky Blinders, coupled with connected technology. Throughout Europe it’s important that the free-to-air operators work together to maintain a competitive edge, which is why we’ve launched the FreeTV Alliance with Fransat in France, TivúSat in Italy and HD+ in Germany to support each other and manufacturers.

New ecosystems and technology have allowed for optional pay top-up services without a full subscription package. Good examples of this are Curzon Home Cinema and Hopster on-demand services, both recently launched on Freesat. Curzon Home Cinema enables viewers to watch the latest cinema releases and a curated selection of contemporary and classic films on a pay-per-view basis. Hopster offers, for a monthly fee, safe and easy access to popular shows for pre-schoolers.

Finally – what’s exciting you most about attending this year’s Digital TV World Summit?

I’m really looking forward to spending time learning about what is happening in Digital TV across the globe, listening out for the disruptive trends that will either challenge Freesat or provide it with new opportunities.

Matthew will discussing these issues and more at the Digital TV World Summit in December. Click here for booking and more info. 

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