New Free To Air Digital TV Channels Coming to Australia…
Over the past few weeks in Australia – 3 of the 5 FTA networks have announced that they will be making new Digital (DVB-T) channels available to viewers (via their additional dvb-t channels) – which will offer original/unique content to what they offer on their primary channel.
In the past – FTA networks were only only allowed to use their additional HD/SD channels to show the same content (and if on the HD channel – generally upconverted from SD or worse) – or for showing a basic information service (ie. EPG Channel or Sports Scoreboard). The restrictions around what FTA channels could do were lifted a couple of months ago I tihnk – /or/ are to be lifted soon (which have been in place since 2000 to protect the paytv industry).
The exception to this rule was the two government owned stations ABC + SBS which were allowed to use it to show content which catered for various minorities (SBS News shows news broadcasts from about 30 non english speaking countries – but doesn’t have any english subtitles) – and ABC used it to show some additional screenings of existing content (at different times).
So thanks to changes in the laws/restrictions + the increase in LCD/Plasma Widescreen/Digital uptake by the Australian public (it’s gone pretty ballistic over last 12-18 months – and you can get STB’s as low as AUD$35 in places like supermarkets) – things are going to get a lot better for Australian viewers.
The details on what will be on these new channels is still a little shakey – with the following details emerging so far :
- TEN HD. The new TEN HD channel (not sure if it will replace or compliment their existing HD channel) – will be offering at least 50 hours a week of unique 1080i programming (and promises to be shows not screening on the SD channel). Apart from the focus on 1080i HD content – they have indicated this additional shows will include things like live sports, shows and movies etc (not timeshifted) – and ‘theme’ marathons (ie. "SciFi Saturday" was one that was mentioned).
In TEN HD’s press release (which has some more information) – they have claimed that it’s the ‘first brand new channel in over 40 years for Australian TV‘. The service is due to start in December.
- Seven "Multichannel" HD. Similarly to what TEN HD are doing - Seven plan to offer some unique content via their HD channel. They haven’t yet announced any specifics yet of what/how much content will be shown (and the press release sortof indicates there may be more than one HD channel?). This one is also due in a similar timeframe to TEN HD. (sometime in December). Seven also recently announced plans to introduce TIVO to Australia so part of this new offering may be tied in with that.
- ABC 3. This one isn’t HD (AFIK) – but will be a channel setup specially for kids content (i guess an evolution of the ‘ABC Kids’ content shown on paytv and during the day on ABC2). Hopefully this will mean that schedules/timeslots on ABC2 + ABC will be freed up to get used for ‘non kids’ content. This channel also ties in with the election campaign (being announced/promoted by the PM) – so it’s possible it could disappear just as quickly as it appeared.
Hopefully there will be some more interactive/datacasting style services on offer soon too!