How does Australia’s free-to-air TV industry compare with the world?

Television has never been more user-focused. With subscription and SVOD becoming more popular every year, how is free-to-air TV faring? You may be surprised, argues Freeview boss Liz Ross.

The starter gun to race and capture TV audiences was triggered a while ago, so how far has the Australian free-to-air TV industry gone, and more interestingly, how fast compared with the rest of the world’s FTA markets?Liz Ross, CEO, Freeview

FTA TV markets around the world, no matter what size, have been facing the same changes in viewer behaviour, increased ownership and usage of devices for TV consumption, the introduction of new video services, and major shifts in how content is distributed.

But what is interesting to note is that the size of the market and the corresponding budgets  don’t necessarily translate into an FTA industry’s response to the need to adapt and innovate in line and in time with consumer demands.

While the sheer volume of TV content and broadcast channels in global markets like the US, UK and Europe dominates the western world, it’s Australia that has, and continues to, set the benchmark.ThinkstockPhotos-free to air tv men sport TV

Digital UK has stated its HbbTV service FreeviewPlay (launched last year and similar to FreeviewPlus in Australia) is making access to subscription-free catch-up content an experience everyone can enjoy.

In its latest annual update on digital terrestrial television in the country, Digital UK’s chief executive Jonathan Thompson said that as more partners sign up to make Freeview Play products it has the potential to play an important role in creating a “fully connected TV nation”.

Thompson: Freeview Play has a role to play in a “fully connected TV nation”

Thompson: Freeview Play has a role to play in a “fully connected TV nation”

Interestingly, though, Australia is leading the UK in the roll-out of HbbTV with the service now two years old. June this year saw more than 50% of TV sales being FreeviewPlus enabled and more than 85% of FreeviewPlus receivers are now connected.

So why is it that Australia – a comparatively small market – is at the forefront in innovation across the global FTA industry?

There are three critical areas – speed of innovation, brand consolidation, and industry unity.


Australia’s FTA broadcasters, more than any other country in the world, have been able to accelerate their development of on-demand and live streaming offerings.

There are more than 22 platforms delivering Australia’s FTA video services – Smart TVs, game consoles, desktops, OTT streaming devices, tablets, mobiles. Every available device type carries FTA catch up streaming services with live streaming becoming more and more available.

The appetite for live streaming has been clearly demonstrated just recently as Seven broke records for the Olympics including the delivery of 37.7 million online streams[1].

olympics on 7 app

The availability of catch-up services across so many platforms is making it easy for viewers to maintain their relationship to FTA programs and will continue to drive stronger consolidated audiences for live and catch-up.

And if we look at the OzTAM VPM ratings we can see substantial growth for on-demand viewing and new milestones being reached. Ten recently achieved more than nine million minutes streams[2] for just one episode of The Bachelor.

Notably, the majority of the big audiences for catch up are inevitably coming from high-quality Australian productions across broadcasters.

The table below highlights the number one catch up program on each broadcaster across a 28 day period prior to the Olympics:

OzTAM video player measurement - screen shot

Click to enlarge

Networks have been quick to respond to the appeal of Australian content on FTA and bring it to viewers on demand.

In addition, all broadcasters have been agile and responsive in expanding their digital rights for content which is evident in the program line up within FTA services across devices today.

Brand consolidation

FTA broadcasters have each made substantial investments into their brands and this ensures that Australian viewers know exactly what to expect when they move from live broadcast to a network’s on-demand service.

With such strong consistency, there is a powerful halo effect established across every broadcaster’s platforms.

digital and network brand logosUnity

The Australian FTA networks more than any other market in the world have effectively united for the greater good of the viewer and the platform.

The collaboration within the Australian FTA industry through Freeview has resulted in the world’s first aggregated catch-up service and there will be a second world-first as the industry launches an aggregated mobile live steaming app later this year.

The upcoming Freeview mobile live streaming will offer huge choice of content throughout the day but particularly at peak times for commuters.

With its unmatched collaborative approach and response to viewer demands through rapid innovation, the Australian FTA industry is in a good position to continue to build on strong foundations.

Liz Ross is the CEO of Freeview Australia

  • [1] Source:  Seven Internal Analytics
  • [2] Source:  OzTAM (VPM) 28/7/16-24/8/16, 28 days, The Bachelor Australia Episode 2, 9,140,000 minutes

Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.