Media Lifeline: Freeview

The digital TV platform has risen from the ashes of ITV Digital to more than 6.5 million viewers.

2002: In October, the BBC, BSkyB and National Grid Wireless form a consortium to take over the UK's digital TV franchise, after the demise of ITV Digital. Unlike ITV Digital, it plans to be a no-frills platform. The BBC's Andy Duncan (pictured) is the Freeview chairman.

February 2004: Over its first full year, the speed of Freeview's take-up surprises almost everyone - and in many households a Freeview box is the must-have gift of Christmas 2003. By the early months of 2004, more than 2.5 million boxes have been sold and its success is underlined when Top Up TV offers a bolt-on range of pay-per-view services via the Freeview platform.

October 2004: It has also become a major threat to the pioneer and market leader in digital television, BSkyB. The satellite broadcaster now moves to stop further erosion at the bottom end of its potential customer base by launching a satellite-delivered Freeview rival - called Freesat. Duncan's Freeview efforts are also rewarded when he is appointed chief executive of Channel 4.

2005: Having been instrumental in digital TV reaching almost two-thirds of all UK homes, Freeview gets another push when the ITV chief executive, Charles Allen (pictured), recommits to free-to-air digital as he sanctions the purchase of one of the Freeview multiplex licences.

2006: With more than 6.5 million households now watching digital TV via Freeview and with growth in satellite subscriptions slowing, Freeview takes the fight to BSkyB once more by launching Playback, a digital terrestrial equivalent of Sky+. Overall penetration of digital (including Freeview, cable and satellite) is at 70 per cent, with Freeview still driving growth.

Fast forward ...

2008: As digital switchover begins and with high-definition television not delivering the boost in revenues that Sky had hoped for, the new BSkyB chief executive, Duncan, proposes a merger with Freeview. The Freeview chairman, Dawn Airey, declines the offer, as she reveals that free-to-air digital equipment is expected to be in 90 per cent of UK households by the end of the decade.

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