Set top box launch to bring cost of HbbTV ‘in line with streaming services’ claims Freeview

Liz RossThe cost of accessing the HbbTV FreeviewPlus service  could be about to fall in developments that could have a “significant” impact on the amount of people watching the service.

Free-to-air TV industry body Freeview said it was “close” to launching the set top boxes and personal video recorders (PVR) that will make consumer’s existing TV’s “smarter”, with indications it could have a price point of around $140.

It will enable consumers to connect to Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV), the new online platform on which the Freeview technology sits, without the need to buy a new TV.

Until now, consumers have had to buy a FreeviewPlus certified TV to gain access to FreeviewPlus, which shows catch-up TV from the ABC, Seven, Nine, Ten and SBS via a TV guide.

Freeview general manager Liz Ross said the set top boxes will bring down the price of entry “enormously” and put it in line with streaming services.

She also revealed two further TV manufacturers will launch with HbbTV certified products, possibly as early as this week. Sony, LG, Hitachi and Bauhn already manufacture HbbTV-ready products.

Ross said “We are close to the launch of set top boxes into the market which will give consumers a much lower entry point to receive FreeviewPlus.

freeviewIf you buy a TV that is FreeviewPlus certified you can connect to the internet and get all the catch up across all your networks.

“But if you had a TV from last couple of years [that does not carry HbbTV certification], and a lot of Australians obviously had to upgrade due to the digital switchover, there is now an opportunity to buy a lower price point product, the set top box and PVR, which can convert the TV into a smarter TV and give it the HbbTV capability.

“Not everyone can afford a new TV but a lot of people can afford what is really just the price some of the streaming products. If you look at $10 a month, or $129 for a year – it might be a bit more than that but not much – all of a sudden you have access to all of the catch-up services through one button on your TV.

“This, and the announcement of new manufacturers, will make a significant difference in terms of market penetration.”

Ross declined to predict what the level of penetration could rise to but last September, when HbbTV launched, she estimated one in 10 households could have HbbTV within the first 12 months.

The release of set top boxes was always in the plan, Ross said, as she described Australia’s HbbTV platform as more ambitious than any other country which has the technology.

“Australia was the first to launch specification HbbTV 1.5 which is more advanced than Europe. It is more powerful and has more functionality. We are going to probably be the first country to have a set top box and PVR,” she added.

The developments come on the back the appointment of former Foxtel and Hasbro marketer Scott Mota as its director of marketing.

He will work with a new creative agency – whose identity will be known soon – on a “new creative direction” for Freeview.

“We have got a big job to do in marketing,” Ross said.

Steve Jones


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