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Freeview boss aims for HbbTV in 10% of Australian households in first year

Liz Ross

Liz Ross

The boss of free-to-air television industry body Freeview has said it is aiming for 10 per cent penetration for the new Hybrid broadcast broadband TV (HbbTV) television service which launches tomorrow in its first year of operation.

In an interview with Mumbrella, general manager of Freeview Liz Ross rejected media criticisms of the delays in the launch and said their modelling on the expected uptake could see usage as high as one in ten of Australia’s 8m plus households by September 2015.

“We have quite conservative forecasts,” Ross told Mumbrella. “The modelling is pretty straightforward we haven’t even modelled in an increase in the turnover of receivers. It is conceivable that it could be in more than 10 per cent of homes within year one.”

HbbTV has been operating in Europe for the last couple of years with online entertainment brand Prosieben achieving around 30 per cent penetration in Germany in three years, while its French equivalent has achieve around 20 per cent since 2012.

Ross cited the German experience as a case study for what she expects the Australian consumer reaction to be. However, she also argued that there were a number of “unknowns” which could actually work in favour of Freeview Plus, exceeding expectations on the penetration of HbbTV sets.

“There are 38 million homes in Germany and they are at 10 million and they have had no marketing – all they had towards the end of last year was a red button campaign in year three,” she said.

“We have a few unknowns because of the way we have structured it. The unknowns all work in our favour: one consumer brand in Freeview Plus; manufacturers have a network backed brand so its easy for retailers to sell and easy for consumers to know what to ask for; there is easy messaging around the benefits so consumers don’t have to go digging around figuring out what HbbTV is.

“It’s a very simple marketing message.”

The launch of the service is the first time the major free-to-air networks have come together with a co-ordinated approach on how to tackle the issue of catch up TV, after years of infighting and a lack of agreement.

The launch of Freeview Plus will include a coordinated television ad campaign, with Australia the first market in the world to have a unified brand for all the TV network’s HbbTV offering.

“It has taken a bit longer,” said Ross. “Why has it taken a bit longer? It is a very complex integration process and being a world first, which it is, because we’re doing every network at once on Freeview Plus and that means every network has got to work on every manufacturer’s receiver.”

The Freeview Plus offering had originally been slated to launch in May, however it was delayed to the second half of the year, and then Network Seven’s regional affiliate Prime Media pulled out of the deal saying there was not a big enough potential market in its service area to make it worthwhile. 

Freeview’s general manager rejected media reports that network infighting was behind the delays.

“The delays have been widely exaggerated,” said Ross. “We told the market that we would be out by the end of the first half of 2014. Our friends at some of the newspapers like to say we are six months late – well actually we said we’d be out by June.

“Amongst ourselves we want to be ready earlier than that but publicly launching in the market, if we could, by the end of June… however, we had to test that every receiver seamlessly connects through to iView, SBS OnDemand, Plus7, Jumpin and TenPlay. That’s what we have been doing.

“We are not going to launch and then have to say ‘everything works except that network or on those receivers’ and that’s why everything has taken a bit longer. So we are in September.

“Did we hope to be at the end of June? We did, but we always said we would launch when we were 100 per cent confident. That’s what we’re doing.”

Nic Christensen 

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