Much has been made lately of the improvements to the digital TV offerings from the likes of Sky and Virgin, but another service has seen rapid growth over recent months too. Freesat now has over 1 million customers in the UK.
OK so 1 million customers when compared to the likes of Sky may not be that great, especially when there’s over 1.6m Sky HD customers alone (according to Sky in October 2009), but the service has only actually been in existence 18 months and in the last 6 months of that, the company has seen its most impressive growth figures to date. Over Christmas and New Year of 2009 they introduced 250,000 new customers to the service and as a result have a record 30 percent sales growth since November of last year.
So what do the figures mean for the company? Well, they can now boast a 30 percent share in the set top box market based on value alone which takes some doing in a mere 18 months. Also, they can take some pride in the fact that 40 percent of their customers are made up of previous Sky customers, so does this mean that many people are seeking other avenues away from Sky?
Emma Scott, managing director of Freesat comments, “Hitting 1 million sales is significant milestone for Freesat and gives us a great foundation for further growth, specifically with the millions of UK homes that have HD TVs but no HD service.
“Freesat is a great opportunity for the millions of homes with existing satellite dishes who are used to quality TV but no longer want to pay a monthly subscription for it and we continue to see an increasing number of viewers moving across from pay TV.”
“Much of what we’re now working on is paving the way for next generation free TV with innovations like BBC iPlayer and ITV Player. We will continue to add value to the service by integrating Canvas if approved by the BBC Trust and we are following Ofcom’s Pay TV review with interest.”
John Cresswell, interim Chief Executive, ITV plc, said, “We’re delighted with Freesat’s success – a million sales in less than two years is a terrific achievement. Freesat is an important distribution platform for ITV, providing our audiences with next generation free HD services and the capability for further development. We’re confident Freesat will continue to go from strength to strength.”
Mark Thompson, Director-General, BBC, said, “The development of Freesat has extended the choices available to viewers in allowing them to receive all of the BBC’s digital channels including BBC HD. I’m pleased to see that they have reached this latest landmark, meaning that more people are enjoying quality BBC content.”
So, why are people switching from Sky to Freesat? Well, there are a number of possibilities and many of which come from the approach that Freesat brings to the market. In contrast to the likes of Sky, Freesat offers subscription-free TV which is by no means a disadvantage. You can still benefit from HD content through Freesat such as BBC HD and you still have access to over 140 channels. The company, a joint venture between BBC and ITV, allows customers access to channels that are actually unavailable on Sky as yet such as ITV HD (although ITV HD will be available on Sky HD imminently).
Alternatively, it could be the price which draws people in. After all, Freesat is a non-profit service, therefore the prices are reasonable and is simply for the set top box and a dish if you need one installed. However with many people joining having previously been with Sky, a new dish is not necessary in a lot of cases.
So are you a Freesat customer? Have you ever considered moving away from Sky? With channels such as ITV HD and Five HD being added to Sky HD and with all the other new channels coming this year, what does it mean for the future of Freesat? Will they continue to see rapid growth throughout 2010?