More Freeview viewers than Sky customers

More homes are now watching Freeview, than those subscribing to Sky, according to a new report. There are (as of the end of March 2007) 8.2 million homes using Freeview on a main TV, whereas Sky only has (as of the end of March 2007) about 8 million subscribers, with Virgin Media having about 3 million subscribers. If you include other TVs in homes that have Freeview, this adds up to 11 million in total (primary and secondary televisions combined). Freeview General Manager, Cary Wakefield says – on the official DTG website – “Over the past four and a half years, Freeview has gone from zero to being the nation’s favourite digitial TV provider”. They have also announced the new Freeview Playback devices, and the official DTG website predicts “more than 10m Freeview Playback devices would be sold by 2010?. More news is available on the official DTG website.

~ Updated ~ Thomas Cook TV launches

A placeholder for Thomas Cook TV has appeared on channel 41 on Freeview. Nothing is broadcasting on the channel at the moment. The appearance of Thomas Cook TV comes after TCM was removed from channel 25 earlier today. It is thought Thomas Cook TV will be free-to-air (ie. not part of Top Up TV).

Update (8.32pm) – Thomas Cook TV has now started broadcasting.

Thomas Cook TV to launch on Freeview

Thomas Cook TV – who used to have a programme slot on Ftn – will be returning to Freeview, but will have it’s own channel number this time around. The channel will be launching this Tuesday and will air between 7pm and 10pm. It is thought it will be using the space TCM is giving up (TCM leaves the Top Up TV linear channel lineup on Monday). Thomas Cook TV haven’t been allocated an number on the EPG yet, so watch this space for when that has been announced. Ofcom licence.

~ Updated ~ Virgin Media files against Sky

Updated 13th April 2007 – Virgin Media will be taking Sky to the High Court as the dispute continues. Virgin Media will be filing with regard to Sky’s alleged abuse of dominance. The hope is to agree a reasonable fee for the Sky basic channels, so they can return to the Virgin Media channel lineup, and to expose Sky for – as Virgin Media state – exploiting their dominance of the pay TV market. Virgin Media’s own channels (including Ftn, Living, etc) were up for renewal on the Sky platform some time ago, and Sky offered them a significant drop in price for them to be included on the Sky platform – the rate was allegedly 85% less than what Sky paid for them in previous years. Virgin Media failed to agree a price for Sky’s basic channels and these were removed from the Virgin Media channel lineup on the 1st March this year – Sky allegedly wanted to charge Virgin Media 17 times more to carry their channels – which included Sky One and Sky Travel (but it’s understood the deal probably didn’t include such channels as Sky Three, Sky Movies HD1, Sky Movies HD2 or Sky Arts). Virgin Media accused Sky of exploiting their dominance of the pay TV market for their failing TV channels (with regards to the viewing figures for Sky One). Sky One has seen a significant drop in viewers since it was removed from the Virgin Media channel lineup, and advertisers are likely to demand a reduction in advertising costs, as they are no longer reaching as many households. Steve Burch – CEO of Virgin Media – says “This dispute is one very specific example of how UK consumers are being denied the benefits of a diverse, dynamic and competitive pay TV market. Litigation is obviously a serious step and a last resort but we are determined to have these issues resolved as quickly and fairly as possible.” The official Virgin Media press release is available here.

TCM now leaving Top Up TV’s linear lineup on the 16th April

TCM will now be leaving the linear/original Top Up TV channel lineup on the 16th April – not on the 10th April that was previously reported. The MHEG on the Top Up TV channels (when they are off-air) was originally displaying the date for TCM’s removal as the 10th April, but the MHEGs are now showing the removal date as the 16th April. As reported previously – TCM films will still be downloaded to Top Up TV Anytime boxes – it is just the standard channel that is leaving the linear Top Up TV service.

Sky Movies rebrand

The Sky Movie channels on Virgin Media EPG have been renamed to coincide with the Sky Movies rebranding. All Sky Movie channels will now require viewers to press the red button and enter a PIN number every time they want to watch any of them – due to them now showing age rated films before the watershed (Sky Family doesn’t seem to need a PIN though). A couple of the channels bring up the PIN entry prompt automatically, whereas the rest show a prompt asking you to press the red button for the PIN box to appear. The downside to having to enter the PIN number for the Sky Movie channels are, now, you cannot bring up the programme information box via the “i” button to find out more about the film you’re watching – the “i” button only works if you press TV to come out of the film, then press “i” for programme information, then – when done – press red again and re-enter your PIN to continue watching the film. (This is the case on my ex-NTL EPG software anyway). Sky Movies 9 remains on the EPG with a “ceased broadcasting” message.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWSKUV_-FNA[/youtube]

TCM to be removed from original Top Up TV channel lineup

TCM will be removed from the linear Top Up TV channel lineup on the 10th April. TCM films will still be downloaded to Top Up TV Anytime DTR boxes, but the channel will cease to exist on the linear channel lineup. This doesn’t leave much left on the original channel lineup – just UKTV Gold, UKTV Style and British Eurosport will remain on the original channel lineup. It appears that Top Up TV may be phasing out the old lineup in favour of more overnight downloads to DTR boxes for Top Up TV Anytime customers. An MHEG on TCM (during downtime hours) tells customers of the upcoming closure of the channel on the linear Top Up TV channel lineup.