The BBC says it will launch five new subscription-free HD channels after telecoms regulator Ofcom confirmed plans to boost the amount of spectrum available for Freeview channels.
Ofcom has awarded transmission company Arqiva a temporary licence for spectrum freed up by the digital switchover which will allow up to ten additional high-definition channels to be broadcast on digital terrestrial TV (DTT).
The licence runs until the end of 2018.
The BBC’s new channels – BBC News HD, BBC Three HD, BBC Four HD, CBeebies HD and CBBC HD – will launch by early 2014 with additional channels from other providers expected to follow soon after.
At present the DTT platform – which provide the live channels on both Freeview and YouView – is limited to just four HD channels. The arrival of new subscription-free HD channels is likely to boost the number of homes who buy a HD TV or set top box.
That in turn could allow the entire DTT platform to move to a more capacity-efficient broadcasting system, meaning it would need less spectrum in future.
Ofcom says just 20% of households who watch DTT currently have a HD capable product and retailers will be hoping the arrival of new channels spurs interest in newer equipment such as LED TVs which offer major improvements in picture quality.
Arqiva says channels on the newly released space will be available to up to 70% of the UK population.
The BBC says it will also offer its channels to satellite and cable operators to ensure they’re available to all licence fee payers.
BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, said: “BBC One HD and BBC Two HD have already proved to be highly valued by our audiences and I’m delighted that we’re able to follow this with the launch of five new subscription-free BBC HD channels by early 2014. These new channels will allow us to showcase more of our programming at its very best.”
Ilse Howling, Managing Director, Freeview added: “We are delighted by the announcements today from Ofcom, The BBC and Arqiva which confirms that viewers will be able to receive up to ten additional high definition channels on Freeview HD by early 2014.
“Importantly, this is good news for millions of Freeview HD viewers whose appetite for more HD channels has been growing since Freeview HD launched in 2010. The new services will also encourage further take-up of HD equipment.”