Bowing to the inevitable Sky has today announced it will be launching a subscription television service on digital terrestrial television (DTT) this summer and in doing so recognised the popularity of the platform.
The DTT platform is enjoying a huge rate of growth since the launch of the Freeview brand which provides 40 non-subscription channels from the likes of BBC and Channel 4.
The increased popularity of Freeview has seen Channel 4 convert popular pay-tv channels E4 and Film Four to free advert funded offerings.
Sky’s new offering will use greater compression to transmit four channels in place of the three Sky channels currently available and will require most customers to purchase a new set top box with support for MPEG4. Sky Three, Sky News and Sky Sports News will cease to be available free-to-air via DTT in advance of the launch of the pay-TV service.
The new service will offer a range of content including sports, movies, entertainment and news. The sports service will include live coverage from the Barclays Premiership and other top events.
The move follows the recent launches of BT Vision which adds broadband content to the Freeview platform and a new sports channel from Setanta.
The launch of the new service is subject to approval by Ofcom of the necessary variations to licences held by Sky and National Grid Wireless, which provides DTT transmission and multiplexing services to Sky.
Mike Darcey, Sky’s Chief Operating Officer, said the company "e;look forward to bringing some of Sky’s most popular content to digital terrestrial viewers."e;
The move marks an important change in attitude towards the DTT platform by Sky executives. BSkyB’s Dawn Airey last year denounced Freeview as a "e;Fisher-Price"e; version of digital.
�If approval for the removal of Sky News is given the BBC’s News24 service will become the only dedicated news provider on the Freeview platform.
BBC News 24 Controller Kevin Bakhurst told UNIT News he thought the news was “a shame for Sky News and for competition in this country.
At a stroke, it seems they are cutting off 20% of their audience, many of
whom can’t afford Pay TV.
I’m not sure what this says about the way News International and Rupert Murdoch value TV News and their viewers.”