According to a Guardian report, the broadcasters have teamed to establish the new service, called Freeview Connect, that will make their catch-up services – BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and 4oD – available as standard on smart TVs.
Digital UK, an industry body that supports Freeview, manages its EPG and develops DTT strategy, is reportedly leading the project. The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and broadcast infrastructure firm Arqiva jointly own Digital UK.
The news comes just days after the BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, called on the broadcaster to “carefully review its investments” in YouView, Freeview and Freesat as part of its obligation to promote services that are “free at the point of delivery.”
The BBC Trust claimed that while the BBC’s support of IP-enabled TV platform YouView was “predicated on the platform’s availability at no ongoing subscription cost,” in practise, nearly all YouView ‘sales’ have provided under subsidy by either BT or TalkTalk, in exchange for a subscription to the telcos’ pay-TV services.
According to a separate report last week, the BBC and other UK broadcasters are planning to “slash their investment” in YouView. The platform’s current stake holders – broadcasters the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5; pay TV operators BT and TalkTalk; and infrastructure firm Arqiva – are due to finalise a renewed shareholders financing agreement by the end March.
News of the Freeview Connect plan come almost two years after Freeview managing director Ilse Howling said at a Digital Television Group summit that connected TV services could reach a mass audience on Freeview without the need for a YouView set-top box.
Within the Freeview HD universe there are already 2.6 million connected TVs, Howling said at the time. “There is a very big market starting there and all of use want to embrace that connected opportunity.”
Freeview were unable to comment at the time of going to press.
A Freeview spokesperson said: “Freeview and Digital UK are exploring what a connected TV proposition, including catch-up, might look like alongside the existing linear services to give viewers extra flexibility in how they watch television.
“Discussions are on-going with our shareholders as to exactly what this proposition will comprise, and how it can be most effectively delivered.”