Freesat will launch Canvas box, says CEO

UK free-to-air digital satellite platform Freesat plans to introduce a Canvas-enabled set-top box when the hybrid platform launches, CEO Emma Scott told delegates at Informa’s Digital Switchover Strategies Summit in London yesterday.

“Freesat will launch a Canvas box and we think it will be a particularly popular box,” Scott said.

Freesat has already launched a beta trial of the BBC iPlayer online catch-up service on its platform, delivered via broadband to connected Freesat devices. Scott said that 77% of beta triallists said they would use computers less or not at all to view iPlayer content as a result of its availability on the platform. Freesat is the first free-to-air digital TV platform to make the BBC catch-up service available, following its launch on pay-TV operator Virgin Media’s digital cable platform last year. Scott said that 90% of existing Freesat iPlayer users had connected their set-tops themselves. The service can be made available to existing Freesat devices via a software download.

Scott said that Freesat was now the fastest-growing TV platform in the UK, with 850,000 devices sold to date, including 340,000 in the last two quarters. Of the total, HD-enabled boxes and integrated TVs account for 640,000.

Scott said that Freesat had clearly become established as a national platform and not just as something that was targeted at homes that could not receive the Freeview digital-terrestrial service. She said that 75% of those who had adopted it already had a satellite dish installed previously and that the addressable market of already-installed dishes in the UK was 13 million – three million more than BSkyB’s pay-TV base. She said that 94% of installations were for the main TV set in the home and that more than half of Freesat viewers had migrated from an existing service. Three-quarters of the customer base, she said, had decided on Freesat because of the availability of HD services.

Freesat, a joint venture between the BBC and ITV, which launched in May 2008, currently airs the BBC HD channel and HD services from ITV.

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