Summary:

“Freeview is shaking off the limitations of its spectrum,” is the declaration of a company that has been acquired by the UK’s big television infrastructure firm to inject internet content in to terrestrial broadcasts.

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UK terrestrial broadcasting infrastructure firm Arqiva is making another acquisitive foray in to online TV.

The company, which moves channels for broadcasters, is buying Connect TV, a start-up whose technology can make internet video streams and apps appear inside the EPG of the UK’s Freeview digital terrestrial broadcasting system as though they were regular TV channels.

Connect TV says it has doubled the number of channels available through Freeview. So far, its channel line-up mostly comprises foreign fare like China’s CCTV, France 24  and Turkey’s Haber Turk. The channels are delivered through Ethernet to Freeview HD boxes.

We tend to think that most living room IPTV solutions, beside dedicated internet boxes, comprise the systems developed by TV makers themselves like Samsung, Sony and LG.

But the TV upgrade cycle is drawn-out, and there remains a significant lifespan for Freeview, whether through boxes or integrated in TVs.

Arqiva is also an equity holder in YouView – a UK JV with broadcasters and telcos to make Freeview internet TV boxes. Its acquisition of Connect TV therefore begs the question – what can Connect TV do that YouView can’t? And, if YouView can’t do it, why not?

Add to that the emerging European standard for terrestrial IPTV, HbbTV, and the UK DTG’s own Dbook 7 standard, and it’s clear there are now umpteen ways in which internet content will be delivered to television sets. Arqiva buying Connect TV is an attempt to have Freeview re-assert its authority as a standard. But then again, that’s what YouView was supposed to do, too.

This is the latest foray in to IPTV for Arqiva, a company more used to radio spectrum than internet delivery.

It once rescued the technology of Project Kangaroo, the joint venture through which BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4 were to bring commercial VOD to computers but which was prohibited on competition grounds. But, having launched the service as “SeeSaw”, Arqiva handed off most of the service to U.S. investment group Criterion, which lost content relationships and ruffled staff’s feathers. SeeSaw recently shut down.

If Arqiva was unable to run a content service, Connect TV at least appears closer to its core competency of distribution technology.

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