Freeview reveals launch date for hybrid broadband/broadcast TV service

What's hot, what's not.   Chris Keall talks about the new Freeview Plus on NBR Radio and on demand on MyNBR Radio.

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Freeview has named a launch date for its hybrid broadband-broadcast TV platform, Freeview Plus: July 1.

The guts of Freeview Plus is that it makes it easier to watch broadcasters' online content on a regular telly.

Freeview shareholders TVNZ, MediaWorks and Maori TV have pulled together to co-operate on a single platform that lets people browse or watch content from their respective on-demand services on their televisions. In many respects, it treats broadband and broadcast as one pool of content that can be surfed with your remote.

Freeview Plus displays a similar electronic programming guide (EPG) on the TV screen as is seen with Freeview or Sky TV today.

But the programme guide adds content delivered over a broadband connection. That means watchers can flip between channels from TV One, TV2, TV3 and so fourth or, with just a couple of clicks of your remote, browse TVNZ On-demand, 3Now and Maori TV on-demand content.

There's also what's called a reverse EPG – which means watchers can browse programme listings from the past seven days, then download shows on demand as an alternative to recording them when they're broadcast live.

Plus also lets you search for shows across both broadcasters' listings and on-demand content. Similarly, it has genre listings that treat broadband and broadcast as one pool of content.

For those who believe most people want to watch content on a regular telly, Freeview Plus is a big step forward.

And down the track, look for interactive frills like online shopping with a click of your remote. There is also support for paid on-demand content.

Freeview Plus will compete with Sky TV's pending $120 million decoder upgrade programme, which will give existing MySky boxes internet content capability via an over-the-air software upgrade (and manual addition of a wi-fi dongle in some cases), and provide the 50% or so of Sky TV subscribers without a MySky box a free upgrade.

There are a couple of drawbacks. Although brass from Freeview shareholders TVNZ, MediaWorks and Maori TV will be at the Freeview Plus launch, Sky TV execs won't be, and Sky's free-to-air channel Prime won't feature in Freeview Plus at launch (Prime doesn't have its own on demand service to integrate into Plus).

And Freeview Plus is based on the Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV standard (or HbbTV) standard already introduced in the UK and Australia. HbbTV is not an app. That has its pros and cons.

The pro is that broadcast and broadband content can be seamlessly blended for the modern couch potato.

The con is that it will take a lot longer to catch on than a smart TV app. You'll need a new television or new Freeview set-top box that supports Freeview Plus — and compatible models have only just gone on sale. An industry insider tells NBR it will be at least three years until half a million (or about one in three) TVs supports Freeview Plus.

NBR got a behind-the-scenes preview of Freeview Plus in May; check it out here.

To build your own NBR Radio playlist and enjoy instant on-demand access to any audio, sign up for our FREE smartphone-only subscription to NBR ONLINE

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