Freeview Plus for HbbTV

The Freeview Plus HbbTV service upgrade delivers the next level in content discovery and choice for Australian free-to-air viewing, all at the click of a button

The Client

Launched in 2008, Freeview Australia is the free digital television service in Australia which presents and promotes free-to-air channels and content to all Australians. Freeview encourages Australians to watch free-to-air content across various platforms by promoting benefits that include more than 25 channels and catch-up services for free. Freeview’s mission is to deliver the free-to-air content to all Australians where, when and on whatever device they choose.

At its core, Freeview provides an enhanced electronic program guide (EPG) across all channels. Freeview also certify televisions, set-top boxes and personal video recorders (PVR) that meet industry standards.

In September 2014 Freeview launched the Freeview Plus HbbTV based interactive EPG which provides viewers with access to all network catch up on a range of certified devices.

In 2017 Freeview wanted to provide their growing user base with an upgrade to this service that would keep up with emerging viewer trends seen across OTT and IPTV services such as Netflix, Stan, and Foxtel.

“The Freeview Plus upgrade is a significant one and we are excited to deliver the next level in content discovery and choice for Australia’s free-to-air TV programming. Australian broadcasters are truly leading the world in innovation and providing a complete TV experience. With this upgrade and our recently launched Freeview FV mobile app, viewers not only have great convenience but also a fantastic choice of how, when and where they watch their favourite content – for free.”

– Liz Ross, CEO, Freeview Australia

The Challenge

Freeview Australia required a technology vendor to build an upgraded Freeview Plus application with full end-to-end platform support, including a back-end CMS and a front-end application. The Freeview Plus upgrade would need to adhere to and be built on the HbbTV 1.5 specification, and would provide consumers around Australia with a best in class unified EPG experience across all FTA member networks.

The upgrade deliverables included aggregating all available network content into one application, providing recommendations to users across all content, be synchronised across all certified devices, include user Favourite capabilities, have parental controls, and provide a new UI to showcase a Live TV mosaic screen. Technical testing of the new service would have to be be performed on 100+ certified devices, incorporating final User Acceptance Testing to ensure the upgraded UI and UX was to the highest standard and easy to use for the general Australian audience.

The Freeview Plus service upgrade would need to be designed to make content discovery easier, with a simplified user experience, additional features and a fresh look and feel.

Switch Media’s Role

With vast experience in delivering a range of end-to-end video solutions for major Australian broadcasters including Foxtel, Freeview NZ, Network Ten and SBS, Switch Media were well positioned to assist Freeview with their requirements.

Switch Media’s role was to provide end-to-end development and delivery of the Freeview Plus app upgrade rolled out to all HbbTV certified hardware.

Central to the solution was Switch Media’s cloud-based video content management system, the Switch Media Manager. Switch Media’s AppCMS framework was utilised to optimise delivery of the app for devices by reusing core modules and overlaying customised GUI.

Switch Media’s delivery included app development, user experience and interface design, the provision of flexible API with support for complex business rules, Electronic Program Guide using Gracenote data, 3rd party player integration and OzTAM VPM, Webtrends, and Adobe analytics integration.

Freeview Plus features include:

  • Access to all catch-up TV
  • A free-to-air TV guide
  • Browse and search
  • Record with a Freeview Plus personal video recorder
  • Ability to save programs to the favourites list
  • Ability to set custom reminders.
  • Recommendations
  • Personalised “Explore TV” screen, including carousels for Live TV, Catch Up, Our Picks, Favourites, Recommended For You, and deeplinks to broadcaster HbbTV apps

“Broadcasters face growing competition for viewer attention, so achieving a 5% increase in the average time that viewers spend on a free-to-air platform is admirable. This service is delivering against metrics that matter, with a huge increase in the number of visitors and new visitors to an existing service. In a country where connected TV and on-demand is growing rapidly, Freeview Plus puts broadcasters at the heart of that universe.”

Videonet’s editor-in-chief, John Moulding

Project Outcomes & ROI

Designed to make content discovery easier than ever before, offering a simplified user experience, additional features, and a fresh look and feel, the upgraded Freeview Plus service launched on June 21st 2017, delivering to more than 2.2 million Freeview Plus-enabled TVs across Australia.

Key to the upgrade was the implementation of Switch Media and partner Liquid Digital’s world’s best practice interface design, featuring image-based browsing and the introduction of the Explore TV function. Explore TV presents the viewer with image-based carousels including personalised recommendations and viewers’ favourites along with live TV, catch up and genre-based browsing. Other Freeview Plus upgrade features include an easy-to-use guide with backwards navigation to catch-up content and a simplified Mini Guide for quick program discovery.

At the inaugural HbbTV Awards in October 2017 in Rome, Freeview Australia was awarded the Best Marketing or Promotion of an HbbTV (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) Based Service for their ‘Keeping up with the Freeman’s’ campaign, which delivers technical messaging of the service in a humorous and digestible format. Freeview Plus was also shortlisted for Best Use of Content Discovery (VOD and Guides) at the HbbTV Awards.

In 2018, Freeview Plus was awarded top honour at the prestigious Connies Awards in London, winning Best TV/Video Upgrade or Launch (International) for its service upgrade.