EXCLUSIVE: Commercial TV stations in Australia are set to start selling ‘fast forward’ advertising in Freeview-certified devices, including set-top boxes, the Sony PS3, Freeview certified TVs and any device that has the new Freeview MHEG 5 processor built in.Effective from April 2010, Freeview, which is owned by the major TV stations in Australia, will move to only certifying devices that include the new MHEG 5 interactive TV middleware. This allows them to restrict fast forward speeds to 30X, as well as place advertising into recordings made on set top boxes and TVs with a built-in hard drive similar to what LG offers.
It also allows the TV stations to sell advertising that will appear on a screen as soon as a user presses the fast forward button. A TV station source said, “At this stage we will deliver static-only advertising. This will allow us to deliver brand advertising as viewers fast forward a sporting event or a recorded drama program. In the future we hope to deliver short video advertising.”
Last year, Freeview Australia chose the International MHEG Promotion Alliance IMPALA standard for Australia.
This will see the deployment of an MHEG-5-based platform EPG that will provide listing information on all Freeview channels regardless of the channel being watched. The platform EPG will also allow channel and Freeview advertising on screen and when consumers fast forward according to executives at IMPALA.
Giri Valliappan, director of market development, IMPALA, said in a statement: “Freeview Australia undertook a comprehensive review process before selecting MHEG-5. They wanted an open standard middleware but also wanted maximum manufacturer support. This was forthcoming from all the major CE vendors for MHEG, strengthened by the fact that all the major CE manufacturers would be able to supply product to meet Freeview’s launch date” which is April 2010.”
Set-top box manufacturers who are concerned that consumers will be restricted by the introduction of new Freeview are set to launch alternative offerings, with several vendors set to offer the Ice TV electronic program guide that has no restrictions and allows consumers to fast forward up to 60X.
Robin Parkes, CEO of Freeview Australia, said, “We looked closely at both Freeview in the UK and Freeview NZ and were impressed by the success they had achieved. With the addition of high-definition graphics and interactive channels, MHEG-5 provides the best route for enhanced services for Freeview in Australia.”
However, retailers disagree. A leading Harvey Norman franchisee said, “Phase one of Freeview did not deliver any benefits for a consumer, all they got was an electronic program guide and additional costs for a Freeview certified device. With phase two, we again see no benefit for a consumer in buying a Freeview-certified device. With MHEG 5 technology built into the new Freeview devices, free-to-air TV stations are going to have greater control over what happens inside the box. They are going to be able to restrict fast forward speeds, place advertising into a recorder for use when a user fast forwards.”
Among the set-top box manufacturers who will have MHEG 5-certified products are Topfield, Beyonwiz, DGTEC (Hills), TiVo, Sony with their PS3, Strong, LG and Sharp.