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DTT ‘must evolve’, says Digital UK CEO

Jonathan Thompson

Jonathan Thompson

Digital terrestrial television “must and will evolve” to adapt to new technology and web connectivity, according to Digital UK chief executive Jonathan Thompson.

In Digital UK’s ‘Free to view TV for the connected age’ update, Thompson said that Digital UK’s priority over the coming months and years will be to adapt and to make sure there continues to be “a strong, evolving and attractive free-to-air television choice for all viewers in the UK.”

“Freeview’s strength is rooted in some simple characteristics: its availability to virtually every home in the UK, that it provides a reliable and easy-to-use service at no cost to the viewer beyond a one-off purchase of reception equipment, and that it offers a growing choice of programming and functionality from high-definition channels to digital recording,” said Thompson.

The launch of connected TV service Freeview Play later this year promises to “enhance the service” by adding internet connectivity, said Thompson.

In terms of spectrum allocation for DTT broadcasting, he said that Digital UK will work so secure “a positive outcome from the World Radiocommunication Conference” later this year to protect the long-term future of the platform.

Thompson added that Digital UK will work with the government and Ofcom on the clearance of the 700MHz band currently used by DTT, ensuring viewers suffer “minimal disruption through this transition.”

The UK announced plans last year to reallocate the 700MHz band for mobile broadband. Digital UK estimates that “millions of households” will need to to retune their TVs and digital boxes when channels move to new frequencies and up to 100,000 homes may also need replacement rooftop aerials.

According to Digital UK’s update, Freeview remains the UK’s most popular TV service and is used in around 19 million homes. Some 86% of programmes are watched live, while 10% is recorded TV and 4% is video-on-demand.

Digital UK supports the UK’s terrestrial TV service and provides operational support for DTT platform Freeview – including management of the Freeview EPG. It is owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva.