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.)