Freeview Australia has launched its free enhanced HbbTV (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) service, providing Australians with a more seamless integration between broadcast and on-demand BVOD services.
The new Freeview product not only provides a more streamlined way to search and discover a world of free-to-air (FTA) entertainment across more than 35 channels, but also enables free and on demand access to a massive library of more than 50,000 individual programs and episodes, from back catalogue, to current programs and digital exclusives.
Freeview’s new HbbTV service, which will be rolled out from April 14, 2021*, will deliver a more simplified viewer experience. The comprehensive search function will make content easier to discover as viewers will be able to search for content across ABC iview, SBS On Demand, 7plus, 9Now and 10 play without the need to download individual broadcaster apps.
Freeview Australia’s HbbTV application is built using the latest HbbTV 2.0 standard and it joins the UK as the only other service in the world delivering an aggregated platform across multiple broadcasters on this latest standard. The new service also provides a simple on-screen program guide that makes it easier than ever to see what’s available across every Freeview broadcaster in Australia.
Helen Clifton, Freeview Chair and ABC’s Digital and Information Officer, described today’s announcements as a strong and positive move for viewers.
Clifton said: “I am very excited about the new HbbTV powered Freeview service for connected TVs, which is 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.
“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.
“Freeview’s role in Australian TV is critical as free-to-air is the best way of making more great content free, and universally accessible, to more people, connecting them across Australia’s vast landscape,” she said.
Freeview Australia’s CEO, Bridget Fair, said today’s announcement is an important evolution of the broadcast viewing experience.
Fair said: “We are delivering a whole new Freeview experience by creating a gateway to the world of news and entertainment that’s free and easily accessible. We can now explore and discover content from last night or the last decade.
“More than 17 million of us watch FTA television every week, and with broadcast video on demand (BVOD) services enjoying a 38% increase YoY**, we have an insatiable appetite for great content.
“Our role at Freeview is to keep pace with this demand and ensure that we are constantly innovating to serve the millions of Australians who vote with their remotes every day.
“Today’s announcement is 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. We know that Australians will be excited and engaged in this new FTA experience,” she concluded.
ABC Managing Director, David Anderson, said: “The ABC has been broadcasting into Australian loungerooms for the last 65 years. We are as committed today, as we were when we first broadcast, to ensuring that our news, current affairs, drama, kids and all our programming is accessible and free to as many Australians as possible. 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.”
SBS Managing Director, James Taylor, said: “SBS has long been dedicated to ensuring our distinctive programming is freely available to all Australians on the device of their choosing.
“The launch of the new HbbTV service is an exciting development. Whether catching up on last night’s Insight, or discovering a new series like The Cook Up with Adam Liaw, audiences can access the very best of Australian television for free – all in one place,” he said.
Seven West Media Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, James Warburton, said: “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. It clearly demonstrates Seven and the industry’s ongoing commitment to enhancing the TV viewing experience for Australian audiences,” he said.
According to Nine CEO, Mike Sneesby: “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. We welcome today’s Freeview announcement which will make simpler and easy for everyone to access and find the content they want, when they want it, on the platform they want to consume it on,” he said.
Executive Vice Presidents of ViacomCBS Australia and New Zealand, Beverley McGarvey and Jarrod Villani said: "Having the new Freeview platform right there at your fingertips when you turn on the TV allows audiences the ability to search and discover freemium content first. With so much variety available to viewers today, the mini-guide supports all free-to-air broadcasters in preserving discoverability of premium content. Prominence is critical and it is essential we provide our audiences with an attractive yet simple platform to utilise and explore all the tremendous content available for free,” they said.
To ensure the widest accessibility to Australian viewers, the new HbbTV service has been built on new HbbTV 2.0 devices but is also fully backward compatible with all Freeview certified HbbTV 1.5 devices (dating back to 2014) through the dynamic delivery of different app versions to suit varying TV requirements.
According to Fair: “With these announcements, Freeview continues to innovate and joins the ranks of leading global connected TV players harnessing the power of HbbTV. This new HbbTV technology is breaking ground as the leading delivery platform for DVB’s*** new targeted advertising specification and continues to set standards for broadcast television by transforming possibilities for viewers”.
Freeview has also unveiled a refreshed brand identity which consolidates the Freeview branding under one easily identifiable logo. This is the first significant brand refresh since Freeview launched in 2008 and is deliberately consistent with the UK’s brand to demonstrate international support for HbbTV.
Freeview’s brand refresh and launch of HbbTV is supported by 15’ and 30’ TVCs - broadcast and digital – which launch early May, plus dedicated digital, social and PR campaigns.
* The roll out will start on April 14, 2021 and it is estimated to be completed by the week of May 12, 2021.
** Think TV Fact Pack, 2020.
*** DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) is the standard used for the broadcast transmission of digital terrestrial television in Australia.