ITV and Channel 4 are expected to announce that they are joining the consortium that promotes Freeview, the free-to-air digital terrestrial television service in the UK.
Membership of the consortium, which currently consists of the BBC, National Grid Wireless (formerly Crown Castle) and British Sky Broadcasting, is likely to give the two broadcasters more of a say in the marketing of the service.
An announcement was expected last week, but was delayed as the parties finalised arrangements, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
Much of the success of Freeview can be attributed to promotion of the platform by the BBC on its channels. Additional on air promotion on ITV and Channel 4 could provide an added impetus to the increasing momentum of the platform, particularly in the run up to Christmas, which is seen as a key sales period.
There were estimated to be 5.2 million Freeview homes at the end of June, a rise of 118,000 in three months, although 700,000 receivers were sold in that quarter. Last year nearly 1.5 million digital terrestrial receivers were sold in the three months before Christmas.
Freeview is growing in importance, and informitv has forecast that it could overtake satellite as the leading digital television platform in the UK as plans for digital switchover kick in.
As previously reported by informitv, ITV has been engaged in discussions with DTV Services Limited, the company responsible for marketing Freeview. ITV is also expected to launch a new channel, ITV4, available on Freeview in November.
Andy Duncan, the chief executive of Channel 4, was closely associated with Freeview in his previous role as director of marketing and communications at the BBC. Since his appointment at Channel 4 he has moved spin-off channel E4, previously only available on satellite and cable, onto the terrestrial platform. On Monday night a new channel, More4, launches on all three platforms.
A reshuffle of logical channel numbers on Freeview later this month is expected to enable the new More4 service to move to a lower number in the line-up, adjacent to E4.
The addition of ITV and Channel 4 to the Freeview consortium may also support any plans to market a ‘Freesat’ free-to-air satellite service to compete with BSkyB.