Never let it be said that there isn’t competition in the UK television market. Where else would you have four free-to-air platforms all operated by the same set of broadcasters.
The latest curiosity is the announced launch this week of ‘Freeview Connect’, a working title already familiar to anyone who has heard Freeview boss Ilse Howling speak over the last few years. Howling, who will head up the public broadcasters’ plan to ensure the latest innovation is not lost on those who opt not to have subscription TV, has publicly ignored the presence of YouView.
It is not surprising. Initially it was the view that in time YouView would replace Freeview as the platform for UK DTT, with its backwards EPG and connectivity with the internet and the rich video content that it brings.
But journalist shorthand for YouView has changed. Besides a seven-day backwards EPG is so last week. At its inception as Project Canvas we might have called in the PSB-led broadband platform. Today its association is very much with BT and TalkTalk, the two telcos who have seen their IPTV fortunes transformed by the YouView brand.
All along Freeview has been developing its own connected offer. The vast majority of Freeview HD boxes are connected through MHEG-5 IC – remember that – and of course the growth in smart TVs has given the iPlayer a further outlet.
When YouView emerged I remember asking why the venture hadn’t gone through Freeview – remember the telcos were only brought in later – to be told that would automatically bring Sky in as a partner. Still in Freeview, Sky may turn into the ultimate silent partner.
Then there is the role of the TV manufacturers. Will Freeview Connect get the manufacturers off the hook in the development of their own Smart TV platforms.