There’s a new TV advertising campaign on the way announcing the “imminent launch” of FreeviewPlus, but that imminent launch was overdue two months ago. SBS already has its excellent next-gen TV viewing experience up and running, but the official launch of FreeviewPlus has been pushed back by a month to September.
FreeviewPlus is different from the existing Freeview over-the-air digital TV guide in that it melds free to air TV with catch-up video delivered over an Internet connection. In SBS’s example, the EPG is distinct from what is essentially a dynamic Web page loading over the top of a live digital TV stream, letting viewers switch almost seamlessly from live TV to archived or unique online video.
If you have a decent Internet connection, FreeviewPlus looks like it will be a fantastic development and one that will genuinely improve the experience of watching TV. It’s technically innovative and, in practice, is both powerful and easy to use. It is just having a lot of teething problems before it actually makes it to Australian viewers’ TVs.
At the core of FreeviewPlus is a broadband delivered free-to-air TV electronic program guide incorporating features that will offer Australian consumers an unrivalled viewing experience. FreeviewPlus will deliver the most advanced, user-friendly free-to-air EPG experience, with Catch Up services accessed from one place on TV screens for the first time. The FreeviewPlus service uses hybrid TV technology, which seamlessly combines broadband and broadcast TV. The technology will also enable the free-to-air networks to introduce a range of new broadband services.
The problem is that Freeview itself is a consortium of Australia’s free-to-air digital TV broadcasters, and it seems like there’s significant politics at play. Prime Media Group pulled out of the consortium in June owing nearly $57,000 in back fees, and that’s money that would have gone towards refining FreeviewPlus as well as promoting it to potential customers.
In any case, FreeviewPlus has an official launch planned for September 2. The HbbTV service, presuming it survives until the launch, will be available on most new TVs from brands like Sony, LG and Panasonic, and a range of set top boxes and digital TV recorders will be able to access FreeviewPlus when connected to both a digital TV antenna and the Internet via Wi-Fi or a wired network connection. [Freeview]