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Freesat is 5

The free-to-air digital satellite platform Freesat is five today. The platform, jointly owned by the BBC and ITV originally launched with over 80 TV and radio channels in 2008. 

Speaking at the time of the launch five years ago, Emma Scott, Freesat's managing director said: "With more than 9.6 million HD-ready televisions already sold in the UK, but only a tiny fraction of those who own them currently able to receive HD programmes, there’s a big opportunity for Freesat to lead the way in introducing the UK to high definition viewing."

At launch, Freesat was also promoted as an easy way for viewers to get the full set of BBC and ITV channels, in areas where the full Freeview service was not available, and offered access to BBC and ITV HD programmes long before Freeview. While BBC HD was available on Freesat channel 108 at launch, viewers had to wait a few more months for ITV HD and indeed Channel 5... in standard definition. Channel 4 HD was added a year after first appearing on Freeview HD in 2011.

Until Freesat launched, the only free-to-air satellite service was via Sky, who launched a similar sounding "Freesat from Sky" service, but requiring a special viewing card to access all available services.

Freesat famously promised 200 channels "by the end of [2008]". In fact, five years later, the service is still 9 channels short of that target, with 191 services in its Electronic Programme Guide. Reference: Freesat channels at launch in 2008 

A breakthrough year
The past 12 months has seen an acceleration in the popularity and awareness of Freesat. Last week, Freesat reported a strong 2012 with the platform operator announcing that 150,000 homes had joined Freesat. The platform boasted easy free-to-air access to the 24 HD Olympic channels last July, saw Sky's three Freeview channels Sky News, Pick TV and Challenge join in December and has this year seen its HD channel tally increase to 6 with the launch of RT HD. In the past few months, Travel Channel, VIVA, Kiss, The Box, Kerrang, Smash Hits and Magic as well as The Active Channel have been added to the platform.

Beyond new channel launches, Freesat has in recent months been at the centre of technological advances with the launch < free time >, a new generation of Freesat PVRs with the ability to roll back the past seven day's worth of TV listings to access catch up TV from the main broadcasters, plus extra features such as YouTube. At the end of last year, an advert for < free time >, starring Sara Mason as 97-year old Desiree caused so much interest that the Freesat website crashed:

The famous Freesat < free time > advert from 2012, starring Sara Mason. (YouTube)


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