Sun, 13 June 2021

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Lack of access to great quality TV is leaving many in the UK behind

Lack of access to great quality TV is leaving many in the UK behind

With access to TV not consistent throughout the UK, Freesat say it's time for change | Credit: Alamy

Alistair Thom, CEO | Freesat

Alistair Thom, CEO | Freesat

5 min read Partner content

Great TV has been a source of comfort during the unprecedented events of the past year. Now we need to make it accessible for all.

The last year has reminded us of the importance of TV in our daily lives and its power to keep us connected to the wider world. As the pandemic forced multiple lockdowns, tuning into our favourite channels remained the one constant thing we could still do together, even while physically distanced.

During the pandemic’s darkest times, we turned to TV to stay informed through the news and to be distracted by entertainment from around the world. Many a virtual watercooler moment was prompted by Tiger King, Nigella’s mispronunciation of a simple kitchen appliance and a certain Oprah interview. Old favourites kept us company; the classic 1990s sitcoms, noughties medical dramas and new superhero films, often facilitated by streaming services.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that linear TV consumption in April 2020 was up 14 per cent year on year, while streaming was up a massive 92 per cent, largely thanks to a significant rise in uptake across all age brackets. In May 2020, over half of 55-64 year-olds and a third of 65-75 year olds had access to at least one streaming service, up 12 and 10 percentage points respectively, from the previous year. Overall, in 2020, 65 per cent of people had access to streaming services, up from 48 per cent just two years earlier.

These trends show how important TV provision, both linear (via the PSBs) and On Demand, is in the UK. Whether bringing people together, providing entertainment, or keeping us informed -  TV counts. It has also played a vital role in alleviating loneliness and isolation over the past year.  A recent survey revealed that 50% of respondents felt that TV had been fairly or very important in helping them feel less lonely.

However, access to TV signal is not consistent throughout the UK, meaning many areas of the country suffer from poor reception (and subsequent lack of channels) via the main means of distribution – DTT (Digital Terrestrial TV).  This then impacts how connected they feel to events outside their vicinity.  The last publicly available data on signal availability is from 2013. This data shows some places including Brecon and Radnorshire, Montgomeryshire and Blaenau Gwent only had access to 8 per cent of all channels. Others like Poole and Southend West fare better, but still only had limited access (55 per cent and 49 per cent respectively).

This means that many households across the country are facing the frustrations of poor signal quality; or have to pay over the odds for costly monthly Pay TV subscriptions that they simply wouldn’t need if they lived in other parts of the UK, just to access their favourite channels and shows – many of which are available as non-paid, free to air, channels.

Everyone should have access to better signal provision and there is already an infrastructure in place that has shown itself to be incredibly reliable, resilient and readily available to virtually everyone in the UK: satellite. 

Satellite provides a way for consumers to have access to high quality television where linear signal isn’t available and removes the destabilising effect of bad weather.

Coming out of a pandemic, it is also a cost effective way to receive TV. Free to air TV via satellite removes the need to be shackled to a monthly Pay TV subscription (where often only a handful of channels that could be viewed for free via free to air are being watched). This is especially important for those in more difficult financial circumstances who don’t want to break the bank to watch television.

The future of TV is all about access and choice.

At Freesat we’ve achieved a unique, competitive and, crucially, affordable offer for consumers in a market where paid providers dominate. Our one-off payment model provides a simple and practical solution. Via an easy to install set top box, Freesat customers can navigate seamlessly between channels and On Demand services often using a legacy satellite dish already installed at a property.

Getting free-to-air TV through satellite also doesn’t have to come at the cost of losing subscription streaming services on the box. Freesat connects streaming services to its platform, aggregating their content to that of linear and providing a ‘one stop shop’. To do this, we’ve developed direct relationships with the biggest names in the streaming entertainment market, (including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video), to offer their huge range of content to our customers and providing an abundance of viewing alternatives.

The future of TV is all about access and choice.  Access in terms of making sure that as many people as possible can access TV and aren’t adversely impacted by where they live and the technology their current dwelling has.  Choice involves linear services being provided alongside On Demand and streaming services from large commercial providers. Viewers curate their own personalised experience so that consumers across different demographic groups all have their particular viewing preferences met. 

We believe that this hybrid model, available to most people in the UK with a satellite dish, presents the best option for the future of television provision going forward. To keep us connected and entertained through the pandemic and beyond.

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