Freeview satellite customers face another 10 years of SD viewing

Freeview says the move to HD would be up to the broadcasters.

Provided

Freeview says the move to HD would be up to the broadcasters.

Viewers receiving Freeview’s free-to-air TV using a satellite dish will have to continue to make do with standard definition broadcasts, after an opportunity was missed to upgrade to the HD service.

State-owned Kordia announced on Tuesday that it had renewed its satellite deal with Australian firm Optus, ensuring Freeview would be able to continue broadcasting free-to-air channels via satellite for another 10 years.

Kordia will initially continue to use Optus’ D1 satellite to broadcast Freeview, before switching to its new Optus 11 satellite in 2024.

But Kordia said the new deal would not see Freeview gain additional transponder capacity on either satellite and that Freeview’s service would remain “as is” in standard definition.

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Former Kordia chief executive Scott Bartlett, who died of brain cancer in 2020, said in 2019 that he would be “amazed” if satellite broadcasts didn’t switch to at least HD when the deal was signed. agreed, suggesting the question was more whether the service would be upgraded to 4K.

Freeview is available in HD to the 86% of New Zealanders who can receive its terrestrial service via UHF antennas and via broadband.

Sky TV satellite customers can also receive TVNZ1, TVNZ2, Three and Prime in HD, as Sky leases more transponder capacity than Freeview on Optus D1.

Sky said in 2020 that the deal would allow it to upgrade at least some of its satellite channels to 4K or 8K formats at any time during its contract with Optus.

Freeview’s interim chief executive Leon Mead said he was still keen to explore options to upgrade its satellite service to HD, but said it came down to the priorities of free-to-air broadcasters.

“It will fall on the broadcasters. The technology exists to do that,” he said.

Optus' D1 satellite, pictured here in 2006 before launch, is used by both Sky and Freeview, but New Zealand's free-to-air broadcasters have only contracted the use of one of its 24 transponders.

PROVIDED

Optus’ D1 satellite, pictured here in 2006 before launch, is used by both Sky and Freeview, but New Zealand’s free-to-air broadcasters have only contracted the use of one of its 24 transponders.

Major free-to-air broadcasters TVNZ and Discovery have been contacted for comment.

Kordia’s head of media, Dean Brain, said he was disappointed the move to HD didn’t happen.

Each channel in HD would require 2.5 times the capacity on the satellite of an SD channel, he said.

Dean said he understood that a problem for broadcasters in deciding whether to contract the extra satellite capacity was that the technology was “not moving in the right direction for them”.

“There is concern that there are a lot of Freeview boxes out there that may not have the capability to do this, so people would have to buy new technology.

“I think for them it’s more of a concern than the actual cost.”

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