January 08, 2009

Freesat takes off...thanks to HD

Got a dish? Tired of paying Sky for hundreds of channels you don't even know about, let alone watch? Then why not buy a Freesat box...one payment, no subscription, plug it in and over 100 channels including BBC HD and the exclusive ITV HD.

It's been a slow start for Freesat, Freeview's fledgling big brother, but it is now starting to make an impression with over 200,000 households installing the alternative dish digital service in the latter half of 2008. Given that the all-important Freesat Personal Video Recorder (Freesat+ in other words) was only released in November and that the hardware was pretty hard to find in the run up to Christmas, that's a fast adoption rate for the new service in a very short space of time, especially as it has had very limited promotion. (By comparison, BT Vision still has only 350,000 customers and it's been around for over two years - Freesat launched in May 2008.)

According to this report in The Guardian, Freesat said that 61% of its customer panel identified HD services as the main reason for purchasing a set top box - that's a wake up call to both Sky and Virgin. The former may have overpriced its HD, the latter has, as we all know, undervalued the demand. With Freesat promising On Demand services next year, Virgin's management cannot ignore the new kid on the block. And neither can Sky - if you've already got a dish and need to save a few quid, Freesat must be very tempting indeed.

6 comments:

Carol Steele said...

Trouble with Freesat is the lack of any decent channels. Other than the usual BBC and ITV channels, there is only ITV HD and Channel's 4 and 5 worth watching (and no option for Channel 4 HD at the moment).

For an extra £0.88 per day (what's that, a third of a pint of beer, 2 cigarettes, half a cheese sandwich) you have hundreds of channels with around 15 HD channels.

Also with subsidised prices for Sky+ HD boxes, you save around £200 on the price of a Freesat+ box and installation. That saving alone will almost cover your subscriptions for a whole year.

Nialli said...

I don't disagree, but as Freeview has proven most people don't want 100s of channels and are satisfied with a couple of dozen. I think Freesat will become a major player and the channel line up will improve. Once more hardware is in the stores, especially Freesat+ boxes, I think it'll grow and grow.
Sky will throw money at fighting off the challenge, but I think it's a bigger threat to their target 10m subscribers than Virgin Media now.

Anonymous said...

For comparing the low end HD subscription prices, at a time when I'm trying to buy fewer thirds of pints of beer and making my own cheese sandwiches at a fraction of that cost...

£27 a month (or £0.88 per day in your terms, and I suppose you might well keep adding channel packs at thruppence a go if you look at it like that!) only gets you 1 pack with HD, so you certainly wouldn't get all 15 channels at that price (but to be fair could get sky1 hd, fx hd and the docus for £0.91 per day which isn't bad... think it's at least £0.98 per day if you want the complete basic HD collection though).

And even if you don't pay the extra tenner a month for HD on whatever channels are in your pack(s) you still get the 3 for free which isn't too bad (£0.56 a day!)... pretty similar to freesat though if you're not fussed about the extra (non-HD in this case) channels. Subsidised box is a pretty good argument... and it would be very convenient if you could just switch to freesat+ with your old sky+hd box after the 12 month contract, otherwise you're locked into a contract while you want to record I believe.

And don't forget to add in phone line rental if you want sky's bundled phone/internet packages and you're comparing to VM's bundle prices. And don't forget to account for unbundled phone/internet if you want those with freesat. THEN try looking at your monthly prices, as well as TCO after 1 or 2 or more years, compared to what channels you have (and what channels you actually watch).

Sky definitely wins the premium HD contest now, but Freesat isn't too bad for the money, especially if you have an old dish. And even VM (especially once they get C4HD and "selected" ITV HD on demand) seems pretty good for the price of virtually nothing per month on top of phone/internet.

Nialli said...

I've not seen Freesat so I can't comment on the PQ, but there were concerns being voiced that the bit-rates on the platform weren't all they could be and in some cases were worst than Freeview - see this report http://crave.cnet.co.uk/televisions/0,39029474,49299359,00.htm

Carol Steele said...

Anonymous - as far as I'm aware, you can get the basic Variety pack - sorry I called it the Entertainment mix before (which gives you a super selection of channels) for £16.50 and then the £9.75 HD Mix (which is a total of £26.25 or £0.88 per day). With the HD Mix you get Sky1 HD, FX HD, Sky Arts HD, Discovery HD, Nat Geo HD, Bio HD, History HD, C&I Network HD, Sky Real Lives HD, MTV HD, Eurosport HD, Rush HD, BBC HD, Luxe HD and C4 HD - which makes a total of 15 HD channels if you don't subscribe to either Movies or Sports.

By subscribing to the variety pack, you can also get free broadband (albeit just 2Mb/sec) and free UK calls (although line rental will add a further £10 per month to the costs).

demented said...

I'm glad Nialli thinks freesat is doing all right. There are a lot of sky whingers who keep on knocking it (so I'm surprised uber pro-sky Guardian would mention it). I think the sales of healthy, yes things could have been done better but it's doing well.

Freesat fulfills a niche. In terms of HD from 2010 I'm guessing there will be four HD channels on both freesat because Ofcom want a fourth on freeview. That isn't bad.