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Freeview claims HbbTV is connected in 580,000 homes but refuses to provide usage figures

The Freeview Plus screen with its Red and Green buttons.

The Freeview Plus screen with its Red and Green buttons.

Industry TV body Freeview has released its first numbers on the uptake of its Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) service, Freeview Plus, claiming enabled TV sets are now in some 900,000 Australian homes.

Freeview says that figure sees it pass its previously stated aim of passing 10% Australian household penetration, although it has also acknowledged that only 65% of the TV sets are connected – meaning that some 580,000 households are connected to the HbbTV service.

Freeview currently refuses to provide usage figures for the service but says it is pleased with the growth it is seeing now that eight out of 10 smart TV manufacturers are now carrying the Freeview Plus-enabled devices.

CEO of Freeview Liz Ross told Mumbrella she was happy with the growth the company is seeing, particularly in the wake of the new Keeping up with the Freemans TV campaign:
“We have really hit our straps and it’s just organic growth from now on now because so many manufacturers are carrying Freeview Plus,” Ross said.

Freeview Plus launched in September 2014 but struggled in its first year to gather traction among consumers with Freeview missing its original 10% penetration target in the first 12 months. The service allows people to access the major catch-up TV services iView, Plus7, 9Now, Tenplay and SBS OnDemand on their smart TVs.

The TV industry organisation also came out to publicly defend its refusal to release numbers on the uptake of Freeview Plus, which came amid growing concerns among TV executives about slow uptake.

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At a forum in the Gold Coast last year Nine sales boss, Peter Wiltshire, told the room: “The statistics on that right now are 10% of homes have a smart TV and are connected to the internet.

Wiltshire: I'd give my right arm that only 1% of smart TVs are connected to the internet.

Wiltshire: “I would give my right arm that only one-tenth of smart TVs are connected to the internet.”

“I would give you my right arm that of those TVs, that are connected to the internet, only one-tenth of them are using internet services on those screens.”

Ross today said Freeview was not ready to release usage data, but did not rule out doing so at a later stage.

Ross: it's just organic growth from now for Freeview Plus.

Ross: it’s just organic growth from now for Freeview Plus.

She also noted that the last quarter of 2015 saw a 35% surge in households due to strong Christmas sales and the new Keeping up with the Freemans TV campaign.

“With the connection rate for Freeview Plus-enabled TVs topping 65%, the next year will be one of great growth for usage of Freeview Plus,” said Ross.

“We are confident in our continued and sustained growth and now that we have so many manufacturers on board with the majority of their TV’s now Freeview Plus enabled we will gain rapid market penetration as consumers buy new TVs”, she said.

Freeview also noted that mature markets with hybrid TV services, such as Germany, have achieved 30% penetration with their markets.

Ross promised an aggressive program of announcements in 2016 to drive uptake.

“We have an ambitious program of other Hybrid and IP innovations launching across 2016 which will only serve to strengthen the appeal of free-to-air TV for Australian viewers,” said Ross.

Nic Christensen

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