Freeview Australia has launched an enhanced hybrid broadcast broadband television service. It is adopting the same branding as the Freeview service in the United Kingdom. The new service is based on HbbTV 2.0 but will be backward compatible with certified HbbTV devices going back to 2014.
The new HbbTV service provides a simple on-screen programme guide and allows unified search for programming across the online services of ABC iview, SBS On Demand, 7plus, 9Now and 10 play.
The enhanced Freeview service was facilitated by Switch Media, which previously provided the Freeview FV mobile app as well as their Freeview Plus upgrade.
Freeview Australia is adopting a refreshed brand identity that is identical to the Freeview brand in the United Kingdom. It is the first significant brand refresh since the launch of Freeview Australia in 2008. It is deliberately consistent with the brand of Freeview in the United Kingdom to demonstrate international support for HbbTV. The launch will be supported by on-air advertising and digital campaigns.
Helen Clifton, the chair of Freeview and digital and information offer at broadcaster the ABC, described it as an important advance in free-to-air television in Australia.
“Not only will it provide audiences with a streamlined way to search and discover content, but it also opens up access to the complete free-to-air on-demand catalogue – over 5,000 hours of content,” she said. “The launch of a new gateway for TV viewing also means Freeview can take advantage of the latest technologies and bring audiences an improved and richer interactive experience which will help drive the industry forward.
Bridget Fair, the chief executive of Freeview Australia, described it as an important evolution of the broadcast viewing experience and also great news for the networks and advertisers. “With the launch of the new service, there is now an easier way to search and view linear and BVOD content with access to thousands of additional episodes and items.”
The managing director of the ABC, David Anderson, said: “The launch of Freeview’s new HbbTV services is an exciting evolution for the 17 million Australians who tune in to free-to-air TV every week as it offers a more simplified, integrated and intuitive way to search and discover the high-quality, distinctive programs — both live and on demand — we have to offer.”
James Warburton, the chief executive of Seven West Media, which includes the Seven Network, said it clearly demonstrates an ongoing commitment to enhancing the television viewing experience for Australian audiences. “With the large amount of content now locked away behind paywalls, Freeview is the central platform of free, premium TV content across linear and BVOD platforms.”
Mike Sneesby, the recently appointed chief executive of Nine, who previously led the online video service Stan, said it would make it easier for people to access video on demand. “We are seeing record levels of on-demand video consumption. This is in part because all of Australia’s TV networks have built out deep libraries of great local and international content available to tens of millions of Australians for free.”
Speaking for Network 10, Beverley McGarvey and Jarrod Villani for ViacomCBS Australia and New Zealand, said the mini-guide supports all free-to-air broadcasters in preserving discoverability of premium content.