Freesat is celebrating the sale of three million reception-capable devices, and will be showcasing an HTML5 YouTube client on its new "<free time>" boxes really quite soon now.
The free-to-air satellite provider hasn't got three million viewers: that's the number of devices sold and will include TVs with integrated Freesat and customers who've discarded old kit when upgrading to the latest <free time> hardware, but it's still an impressive figure and the company did add 55,000 new customers in December alone so has plenty to celebrate.
Freesat is a joint venture backed by ITV and the BBC, and broadcasts from the same Astra constellation of satellites as Sky; so migrating Sky customers can use their existing dish. And although Freesat and Sky share some frequencies, Freesat uses different frequencies to Sky's premium offerings, and Freesat uses no encrypted channels, so everything is free to watch.
Unlike terrestrial TV, as embodied by Freeview, Freesat doesn't have to fight the mobile-phone operators for radio frequencies. Satellite TV is always line of sight, and so uses much higher bands where there's more space to move around, allowing Freesat to offer more channels than its terrestrial competitor.
Freesat's major orbital competitor is the confusingly-named "Freesat from Sky" which offers free channels to Sky customers who just want to stop paying their subscription. It features a lineup comparable to Freesat.
Freesat has responded with <free time>, its PVR and catch-up TV platform which offers one of the better set-top interfaces with connections to catch-up services (delivered over existing broadband connections) and incorporates the latest Smart TV standards (including the important bits of OIPF, HbbTV and HTML5) which helped make the YouTube port happen.
<free time> served Freesat well in December, but our suggestion that this was at the cost of Sky earned a swift rebuke from the UK's dominant pay-TV operator who told us subscribers are still rising (20,000 added in December) and each of them is paying (on average) £548 a year, up £10 on the previous year: add Netflix and Love Film into the mix and it seems we're all just spending more on TV than we used to.
BARB, official counters of such things including viewer numbers, reckons we Brits average six viewing devices per household, including PVRs, TVs and set-top boxes, so a good number of those Freesat boxes will be secondary sets or additional sources. Even so, three million is still a decent number and worth celebrating. ®