Another TV network has pulled out of Freeview, the service that Harvey Norman executives lambasted when it was first launched in 2008.
Prime Media has decided to quit and there is now speculation that the owners of Freeview the ABC, SBS, and the free to air TV networks Seven, Nine, and Ten are struggling to roll out their HbbTV service in Australia.
The first TV network to pull out of Freeview was regional TV network WIN TV now Prime Media has followed with question marks being raised over the future of Freeview which was put into place to counter Foxtel while also delivering a platform that restricted the removal of advertising and the fast forwarding of content beyond 30 frames per second.
A new 1TB non Freeview Humax PVR, that is set to go on sale today at Harvey Norman stores in Melbourne will fast forward at 60 frames per second, it is also capable of stripping out advertising and when configured it can also deliver content from the device to a tablet, smartphone or notebook remotely so that if you are away on holiday or business you can still watch content recorded on the PVR.
Prime Media has chosen not to participate in the roll out of the HbbTV service in Australia.
The resignation was revealed online yesterday by The Australian, triggering a PR offensive by Freeview, which claimed HbbTV was still on track to launch with support from other Freeview members including the ABC, SBS, and the main commercial networks Seven, Nine, and Ten.
“A media strategy has been developed taking into account Prime’s stated position that it will not be initiating any contact with the media about this decision,” Freeview chairman Kim Dalton wrote in a leaked email.
“We will be reactive and will not initiate any contact with the media. However, a statement has been prepared should a response be required.”
Several leading TV Companies including LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony are already shipping Hbb TV enabled display screens.
HbbTV combines broadband entertainment with TV programs on the enabled television set or Humax or Fetch TV boxes.
“We’ve been looking at HbbTV for the better part of 15 months, and we’re of the view that the regional market is not sufficiently developed to support HbbTV,” Prime Media chief executive Ian Audsley told The Australian.
“We can’t participate at this time and seeing as it is conditional upon Freeview membership we decided to do what we need to do. We’re not going to deploy shareholder money on an unproved market. Set penetration in regional Australia demonstrates that.”
The Australia said that further reasons for Prime’s decision to abandon HbbTV became clear when it emerged that households in Prime’s catchment area, which includes places such as Wagga and Dubbo, would still be able to access dedicated HbbTV channels from the Seven Network when the service launches.
This key revelation undermines the basis for keeping a ?provision in the Broadcasting ?Services Act, which prohibits a ?licence holder from reaching an area that exceeds more than 75 per cent of the population of Australia.
When WIN TV pulled out the chairman of Freeview, then ABC director Kim Dalton, and general manager Liz Ross declined to comment on the move. Freeview appears to be taking the same approach again in an effort to stifle comment.
When WIN TV pulled out they said that they were no longer prepared to pay for “a marketing body” it believed served little purpose.
When Freeview was launched in Australia David Ackery, the General Manager of Harvey Norman Electrical, was critical of Freeview. At the time he said that Australian TVs and set top boxes did not need Freeview to deliver consumers a “good viewing experience”.
He said that Freeview was needed for small set top boxes that are currently being used to upgrade existing and old TVs into a digital TV.
“I accept that a lot of new digital TVs do not need to be Freeview certified however we do need some form of digital converter box for the thousands of Australians who cannot afford the move to a new digital TV set.” He said.