We seem to have reached a bit of a watershed moment for Freesat.
The first public signs of a bit of a wobble was the loss of 4HD and the catch-up service All4 from the platform in Q1 of 2018. Then in Q3 last year it was announced that Humax would no longer be producing any new generation boxes for the service. Their current range continues, of course.
Manufacturer Arris has been appointed as the company responsible for production the third generation (G3) boxes. You can read more here: https://www.digitaltveurope.com/2018/09/13/freesat-turns-to-arris-for-third-generation-set-top/
You can call me cynical if you wish, but to me the wording of the announcement rings some alarm bells. Talk of "controlling the entire supply chain
" and "entering the dynamic retail space in the UK
" just smells too much of marketing spin to cover up the decline of the whole stand-alone linear-TV PVR market as consumers switch to on-demand streaming.
Arris is to make Freesat boxes that include UHD-resolution streaming service support. They'll also support UHD-resolution broadcasts, but AFAIK, there have been no concrete plans to start satellite transmissions of any channels that will provide linear TV at UHD. The closest they've got is announcing the protection system that will provide conditional access security, and that's not the same thing.
I'm not expert on Freesat, so take all of this and the above with a pinch of salt, but IMO the picture quality of Freesat is ahead of Freeview from what I've seen. Also, if Freeview isn't an option, or you're only going to get the limited channel range from a Freeview Lite transmitter because of geography, then Freesat does offer a viable alternative.
The downsides of the platform though are the need to run separate cabling - some singles, some as twin-shotgun - to all the Freesat capable devices in a house, and the requirement for a Freesat receiver or recorder to accompany each TV; it adds significantly to the cost of providing a way of watching TV on several screens around the house.
As it stands at the moment, the Humax G2 boxes are the most up-to-date available in the UK. The Arris G3 boxes are available in continental Europe, but I don't know if the EPG we use for UK TV guide would be supported if you bought a G3 box from say Germany. They haven't yet landed here in full UK spec.
I do wonder what the future holds for Freesat in the UK. I can imagine that in Europe, particularly in countries where rural population densities or mountainous terrain makes it difficult to receive TV via a roof aerial, then some form of equivalent to Freesat would be almost essential to receive live TV transmissions. That would then mean from an advertiser's point of view, Satellite TV is the place to be.
We don't really have the same issues in the UK. Something like 96% of the population here can get some form of Freeview reception, even if it's only the core Lite service. Just under 18% of UK homes watch via Freeview. Freesat has a much smaller percentage share of the market. It's around 1%
In conclusion, I wonder if now is the right time to be spending money on new Freesat equipment? The next 12-18 months could prove pivotal. Either the G3 boxes will arrive or the entire service will fold. This could be the time to either buy an emulator for the existing gear or look for a used later-generation Humax as a stopgap.
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