German terrestrial HD TV platform named "Freenet", despite inclusion of encrypted channels

Germany's new HD terrestrial TV service is to be rebranded Freenet TV, despite half of the service being subject to an ongoing charge.

The origins of the name lie in the recent take over of broadcast infrastructure company Media Broadcast by Freenet AG. A website promoting the service to consumers went live last week, ahead of today's official announcement.

Digital terrestrial TV in Germany will consist of three public service multiplexes, where the public service broadcasters will offer their channels in HD free of charge. The remaining multiplexes will carry encrypted commercial TV stations, with a monthly subscription of around or just above €5 expected. Ironically, it's this pay TV element that will become the centre piece of Freenet TV's marketing.

A basic advance network service with a handful of free channels goes live in the coming weeks, with the full service rolling out from 2017.

Germany's HD terrestrial service launch follows in the footsteps of the French TNT service, which switched to HD in April. The Netherlands is also due to move to HD in the coming years. Austria offers up to 14 HD channels terrestrially. The UK will have up to 15 HD channels on Freeview following the launch of Channel 5 HD, although some services timeshare. Ireland currently only has 2 HD channels terrestrial - commercial services have thus far refused to offer HD on the country's Saorview service.

Across many European countries, commercial broadcasters are locking away their HD variants behind a paywall, the same in the UK where major commercial HD channels without public service obligations are largely offered as a pay TV service. German commercial operators have a history of using the word 'free' in conjunction with pay TV: HD+, the platform that gives viewers access to the HD versions of most commercial channels in the country is part of the Free TV Alliance, despite viewers having to pay a charge to access the channels. The channels have in the past insisted that they are free; the charge is merely a charge to access the platform, not the individual channels. From a technical point of view, these can neither be described as free-to-air or free-to-view.

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