Freesat (not from Sky)

Today’s news in the UK media landscape is that Freesat has launched.  Not to be confused with the very-similar proposition Freesat from Sky (launched in 2004).

Both are free-to-air digital satellite services with no ongoing subscription.  You need a satellite dish and a set-top box (or box built-in to your TV).  Freesat from Sky costs £150 all-in, for dish, box and installation.  Freesat (from the BBC) costs about £50 for a basic box, and about £80 for a dish and installation, depending on all sorts of things.  Or you can get an HD box for about £150 (HD services are the only big difference in channels I can see).  It’s all very rough and a bit confusing as an offering.

It’ll be very interesting to see what happens with Freesat.  At a glance, it seems the wrong offering (it’s more expensive than Freeview, and more confusing than Freeview or Freesat from Sky) at the wrong time (Freeview has such a huge market share) in the wrong market (consisting solely of those who want digital TV but can’t get Freeview and for some reason don’t want Freesat from Sky).  An odd thing for the BBC to be backing.

But we shall see.  Maybe the HD thing is the key: free-to-air HD (BBC HD and ITV HD) is the one significant thing that Freesat has that Sky and Freeview don’t, and it’s also the thing that Sky are complaining about.  Hold on, there’s another thing it has – Freesat also has the imprimatur of the BBC and ITV, which shouldn’t be lightly dismissed – I’m sure the UK take up of DAB and Freeview are largely down to the extensive advertising campaigns mounted by the BBC.

(Other perspectives welcome: It’s hard for me to judge this sort of stuff on “what appeals to me” because – like Clay Shirky and John Naughton – I watch hardly any TV.  And the TV I do watch is often lower res than plain old TV since it’s via the BBC iPlayer.)

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Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.

11 thoughts on “Freesat (not from Sky)”

  1. Unless, like me, your Freeview reception is so poor as to be unusable most of the time. Hmm, BBC Freesat, HD Box, PVR – could be a winner.

  2. I think you might be missing a key reason that people dived into Freeview (apart from cost) – simplicity. One payment, buy the kit, bingo bango it’s sorted. The Sky pricing model with a monthly payment arranged around a range of packages offers a great deal more but it always “feels” expensive, it’s like renting a TV rather than buying one.

  3. I have freesat from sky at present and will seriously consider moving to the new offering from the BBC/ITV if for no other reason than that I hate the UI of the sky offering – no easy way of masking the channels that you can’t/don’t watch, I get the feeling that there is a certain emphasis on trying to tempt you with the channels you could have if you paid.
    One draw back with freesat in general is the need for multiple cables from the dish to enable you to record different channels to the one you’re watching, so freeview may still be the best option if you can get it.

  4. Yes – I think I may have under-estimated what they’re trying to pull off here.

    Richard – I’m sure you’re right that Freesat from Sky is a loss-leader thing (or covering costs at best) and that Sky’s strategy is to try to get you to take out a proper monthly Sky sub. Which, as Nigel points out, feels expensive. (As well as insisting on showing you ‘what you could be watching’ on the EPG, they keep doing promos and things – most recently, a whole month of ‘you can see every Sky channel, including Movies and Sports and everything’, which was fun to explore for an evening or two, but succeeded only in convincing me that I was right that it wasn’t worth paying money for.)

    What occurred to me overnight is that Freesat are gunning for Sky directly: they’ll be hoping to persuade people to buy a Freesat box and cancel their Sky sub. Or to pick up people who’d been thinking of getting Sky but been put off by the recurrent costs. I’m surprised Sky isn’t complaining even more loudly.

  5. I’d go for it, because I want HD but won’t give anything to Murdoch (even a one-off fee). But I suspect those criteria define quite a narrow audience, plus his murky involvement (or not, allegedly) in ITV.

  6. I fit aerials in a rural area and have had a lot of people leave Sky opting for Freeview instead. I have been telling those who cannot receive any or all of the Freeview channels about Freesat from Sky, but few have taken this up, mainly, as i understand due to Sky prices, not for initial set up so much as cost of extra box & card for multiroom, higher output LNB, extra cable runs etc. etc. . . I am watching this new platform with interest, and do believe it will be a winner if the hardware is not overpriced. Is there any reason for the huge price difference between basic Freesat boxes(£50), and freeview boxes(£18)??

  7. Further to this, I’ve gone this route. A big, HD telly is arriving Saturday. A dish and box (maybe with recorder) will follow soon.

    The only bottleneck is the lack of boxes ‘due to high demand’.

  8. I thought I’d update on this, since everything got installed today.

    Finding out when installation was going to happen was a nightmare, as the job was twice-subcontracted. When I told Freesat this they had a fit – the job shouldn’t even have been subcontracted once, by their agreement with Argos.

    Don’t be afraid to shop seperately for box and install, by the way. Our install was cheaper at Argos, with a box £40 cheaper at Currydixoncomet. Maplin have some great deals for self-install, but watching the little tricks of experience that made it easy today, I’m glad I paid someone £80

    Actual installation, when the man arrived today, was painless. My house is intact, and the slowest part was waiting for the Freesat box to flash itself the latest firmware once connected. A caution so nobody thinks their box is broken: these boxes come with hdmi turned off, so connect with the suppied scart lead and move to hdmi once set up.

    Benefits? Immediate. Much better choice of channels, including all the regional flavours of bbc. Really fast interaction due to the increased bandwidth.

    The box upscales really well – so much so that the upscaled stuff shown on BBC HD looks little better than the other channels. Stuff made for HD, though, like tonight’s Wild China, looks sweeet. I can’t wait to see my beloved Holland raise the European Trophy, and the Olympics. I’ll even watch a bit of Formula 1 once ITV HD comes on stream. If only BBC would put the Moto GP on BBC HD I’d be set.

    Worth it? Yes if you can’t get really good digital terrestrial, or want HD programmes without giving money to M*rd*ch.

  9. ah, but what about pvrs? Any freesat twin tuner recorders with RPG and serial recording yet?

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