back to article Next-gen Freeview telly won't be another disruptive 4Ker

The evolution of TV once again fell under the spotlight at the annual DTG (Digital TV Group) conference held earlier this week in London. The event provides a high profile platform for engineers, service providers, manufacturers and software developers to compare notes and scout out the ever undulating broadcast landscape. If …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Meh

    Sky...

    Chris Johns, chief engineer at Sky,...., opined during the day: “You can now buy a 1000 Nit Samsung TV on the high street, we have to catch up!”

    Chris Johns, chief engineer at Sky,...., opined during the day: “You can now buy a 1000 Nit Samsung TV on the high street, we have to come up with a horribly compressed, sub-standard method of delivery which we can sell as UHDTV and still get away with it"

    FTFY

    1. Dabooka Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sky...

      Have an upvote.

      Compression is so shocking now. Some of their HD channels are only moderately better than some of the German SD channels I've seen, and certain SD channels are virtually unwatchable on a reasonble sized telly. Bring back D2MAC!

      I do confess to not having a Sky box so it might vary between receivers.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Sky...

        Some of their HD channels are only moderately better than some of the German SD channels I've seen

        Which channels? Don't forget that Sky aren't responsible for everything carried on their platform. Most channels available through a Sky subscription are actually being broadcast by someone else. As a general rule if it doesn't actually have 'Sky' in the channel name it's broadcast by someone else. Although in a few cases that 'someone else' has asked Sky to take over the uplinking. I seem to recall that FOX is now uplinked by Sky. But the likes of Discovery, NatGeo, Allibi etc. are doing their own broadcasting and have only paid Sky for a place in their EPG.

        1. Dabooka Silver badge

          Re: Sky...

          Good points made.

          I'm fairly sure it was Sky Atlantic although it was a while back. As I say it was not my system either so it may improve with differnent better decoders.

      2. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Re: Sky...

        I do confess to not having a Sky box so it might vary between receivers.

        It doesn't trust me...

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Sky...

      High bit rate DVDs can look better than much HD sources.

      Das Boot looked fine on a 46" HDTV

      1. Dabooka Silver badge

        Re: Sky...

        "High bit rate DVDs can look better than much HD sources.

        Das Boot looked fine on a 46" HDTV"

        Absolutely it can, I'm not suggesting that HD = better. There's a guy at work who thinks his Android IP box spouts out full HD football becuase it's shwoing as '1080p' but we all know that isn't the case!

  2. Mark #255

    PVR vs catch-up

    Reasons why PVR is (usually) a better option:

    • Better quality: OTA is generally higher resolution and much higher bit-rate than catchup

    • Not missing: some things (eg films) don't appear on catchup

    • No expiry: recordings stay on my PVR until I get rid of them (notwithstanding the finite space available), whereas iPlayer still only caches for a month (admittedly better than previously).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PVR vs catch-up

      Yes indeed. To add slightly to that...

      Rights issues. Match of the day, for example. The complete idiocy of being able to watch it on Sunday if you've PVRed it, but not if you catch-up, never ceases to astound me.

      Adverts. The ability to fast forward through them.

      1. gv

        Re: PVR vs catch-up

        I agree - complete lunacy. I can watch a film being broadcast on live TV or via iPlayer, but for "legal reasons" I can't use ChromeCast to watch exactly the same thing.

      2. montyburns56

        Re: PVR vs catch-up

        "Adverts. The ability to fast forward through them."

        Indeed. I missed the last few minutes of a show which I was watching live on E4 so I had to use the 4OD app and I had to watch about twenty adverts all in one go just to watch the last few minutes of the show.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: PVR vs catch-up

      Reasons why PVR is (usually) a better option:

      * You can skip over adverts.

      1. JimWin

        Re: PVR vs catch-up

        AndrueC, yep, you can skip over them. But last year, ITV4 broadcasting one of the grand (cycle) tours, said adverts were their lifeblood and they could detect ad-skipping. Not sure how, but I suspect some post broadcast analysis of consumer behaviour. I guess many, like myself, were using their PVR's to skip ads. Anyway, this year no sign of any cycling on ITV4 so far. I hope that's not a sign, but if so, skipping ads could prove self-defeating.

        1. NohSpam

          Re: PVR vs catch-up

          Cover your head in tin foil when popping out to make a cup of tea during the ads then

    3. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: PVR vs catch-up

      There are often better options for controlling a recorded playback than streamed catch-up. Using iPlayer for catch-up on a Virgin Media Tivo seems to have lost the ability to show moving images during fast-forwards and fast-rewinds making those particularly hard to use, and despite hopes for 'no buffering' that does not always prove to be the case.

      For longer programmes I have taken to recording catch-up via the Tivo on my analogue PVR so I can have better control when I come to watch it. It would be handy if the Tivo could record from catch-up but it can't (or I've missed a trick).

      I mostly do time-shifting and three tuners in the Tivo is usually enough, especially with +1 channels, and I only use catch-up when the Tivo doesn't record something it was meant to, or a friend recommends something I missed and it's not being repeated later.

      I also have some rather long programmes and films I do intend to watch but haven't so far, which are no longer available via catch-up.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: PVR vs catch-up

        I also have some rather long programmes and films I do intend to watch but haven't so far, which are no longer available via catch-up.

        Yeah me too. 'Filler' material for when I'm really bored. Last week I was watching something and was amused to see Christmas trailers and adverts go zipping past under fast-forward :)

    4. BigAndos

      Re: PVR vs catch-up

      This winds me up something chronic! Some of the catch up services like demand 5 only keep programmes for a week after broadcast, at least on my sky box. I've been watching Gotham and was away for two consecutive Mondays and forgot to series link it. Therefore, I missed an episode and bittorrent was the only way to catch up!

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: PVR vs catch-up

        I've got Gotham stacking up ready to watch. I saw the first episode but wasn't motivated enough to actually start watching the series. Now it just mocks me from the Sky Planner :)

        1. BigAndos

          Re: PVR vs catch-up

          Slow to start with but gets very good once it warms up. Worth sticking with it!

    5. TheDillinquent

      Re: PVR vs catch-up

      * Not having to use the atrocious iPlayer.

      How is it that Auntie can't make a VOD player that works as well as the old (pre Tivo) Virgin catch up app?

      One that shows images in FF & RWD along with a time line.

      One that doesn't crash whenever its paused.

      One that doesn't leave you watching the spinny thing for 5mins whenever you try to do anything with it.

      1. Platelet

        Re: PVR vs catch-up

        I abandoned iplayer when the last set of "improvements" removed the ability to series link recordings.

        Now use get_iplayer & web pvr manager along with task scheduler to download the programs and play with the viewer of your choice (vlc etc)

        so you can get images in FF & RWD along with a time line.

        it doesn't crash whenever its paused.

        it doesn't leave you watching the spinny thing for 5mins whenever you try to do anything with it.

  3. John Bailey

    RE:Sky...

    Chris Johns, chief engineer at Sky,...., opined during the day: “You can now buy a 1000 Nit Samsung TV on the high street, we have to come up with a horribly compressed, sub-standard method of delivery which we can sell as UHDTV and still get away with it"

    You missed out "at a premium, with new boxes that still only kind of work.

  4. Repnescasb

    Darwin slide has things backwards

    Whilst I would agree that the technology of the TV set has progressed since it was first introduced, the quality of the content seems to be going the other way, even chimps would be non plussed by much of what passes as entertainment these days...

    1. Badvok

      Re: Darwin slide has things backwards

      Oh the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia.

      A lot of the 'wonderful' content you think you remember so fondly is available on YouTube these days, take a look and see if it really is better than today's stuff. Once you take the rose-tinted specs off I think you may change your opinion. Entertainment TV is and always has been pretty dire.

  5. Roger B

    More than 4 catup services...

    Quest and Dave also have their own CatchUp TV now and I think they both have the apps on my BT/Youview Box.

    1. GreggS

      Re: More than 4 catup services...

      I think if you look on youtube, there's millions of catup videos.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: More than 4 catup services...

      Dave has a catchup service ???????

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe I'm a nit

    But what the hell is a nit, and why would I want 1000 of them?

    1. TheProf
      Happy

      Re: Maybe I'm a nit

      I used Google to find out what a Nit is but without success. I'm still scratching my head.

    2. Boothy

      Re: Maybe I'm a nit

      It's a unit of luminance.

      The official SI measurement is 'Candela per square metre', or cd/m2

      'nit' is an unofficial name (as-in not a valid SI name), for the same measurement.

      Edit:

      Ubiquitous wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candela_per_square_metre

  7. Boothy

    Why not a unified catch-up service?

    Why does it have different buttons for each service?

    Would it not be better to simply have a unified, generic 'catch-up' system, that merges all sources together into one common front end for the end user?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Why not a unified catch-up service?

      Would it not be better to simply have a unified, generic 'catch-up' system, that merges all sources together into one common front end for the end user?

      Better for the user but I suspect that the channels would be scared of losing their identity. That's probably the biggest threat of a truly free forn delivery system - channels cease to be providers and just become collators and with the right framework we could all become collators.

      If the day ever comes (please!) when we can stream direct from the studio channels will become irrelevant.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Why not a unified catch-up service?

        "If the day ever comes (please!) when we can stream direct from the studio channels will become irrelevant."

        Many of the studios are owned by the networks themselves. The networks make plenty of their own content, so they aren't going away anytime soon.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: Why not a unified catch-up service?

          The networks make plenty of their own content, so they aren't going away anytime soon.

          Yeah but we can dream. I'm not sure what it's like in the US but in the UK at least there are several independent companies that make programmes. Even the BBC uses them for some programmes. So in theory at least those independents could make their output available direct to the public.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Why not a unified catch-up service?

            There are a fair share of independent production companies in the US, too. Some of them can be quite big like Fremantle Media, a familiar name with ALL the networks. Many of these can make pilots and go fishing with the networks to get a contract. Such as it goes, but that also means they work under contract until released, so any stuff that goes to a network stays with a network (it's the rule--the publisher takes precedence over the producer regarding ownership). But at the same time, the big networks make sure to maintain their own cadre of studios to produce what might best be called their "core lineup". CBS's Television City, NBC's Rockefeller Center. Even the BBC maintains its own studios, as I doubt they'd trust anyplace else to produce Doctor Who and so on. When it comes to private networks and producers, there can be give and take, and each situation can be different. A network can frequently contract one of their productions out to one of the producers on the condition they do it in their studios.

            Going back to your argument of producers going it solo, the money usually isn't there. Television production isn't cheap. That's why the pilot system and the studios and contracts and so on. Even the second tier of television, the syndication system, involves contracts with the syndicate. Only a wholly-homegrown program can be put online with no strings attached.

    2. Bob H

      Re: Why not a unified catch-up service?

      If you don't have players then how do you know you're watching the BBC and how do they cross-promote shows. The brand managers of the channels won't let us watch anything if they can't control the outcome.

  8. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    It's not clear from the pictures whether the catch-up content will be accessed through the same UI as real-time broadcast. If it's just a matter of putting a BBC iPlayer button on the EPG, then I'm less than impressed. If, on the other hand, it will make it possible to avoid using the atrocious iPlayer UI, then I'll start to think about changing my TV.

    1. Test Man

      They said that there'll be a "roll-back" EPG so you'll actually be able to go back 7 days and watch shows that are available on catch-up.

  9. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    Freeview Play

    Yet another smart (for low values of "smart") TV service. Yet another set of redundant TVs, DVDs, Streamers. When will it end? When all the silicon in the Earth’s crust has been dug up, refined, had value added, thrown away, recycled and put into land fill I suppose. A neatly circular industry and, given time, one that can start again as we mine old land fill dumps.

    1. ahfakopsdfi

      Re: Freeview Play

      It's not so much the silicon you need to worry about - eighth most common element in the universe (by mass) - it's everything else: helium, rare earth elements, polluting by-products etc.

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        Re: Freeview Play

        Yes, I think Silicon is second to Oxygen in terms of abundance on Earth. I was using it as a quick and dirty analogue for all the elements, Gallium, Gernamium etc, used in ICs, and Gold etc used on circuit boards. Not all commentards will be IC engineers but i hope most could read between the lines.

    2. Lamont Cranston
      Joke

      Re: Freeview Play

      No need to worry, I'm sure that Panasonic et al. will be pushing out firmware updates to all their existing "smart" TVs that will enable access to this revolutionary new service.

      1. James R Grinter

        Re: Freeview Play

        Indeed, "and just 68 per cent per cent of them connect “multiple” times a week" -- because the tv manufacturers don't bother with keeping last year's models services up to date, fools!

        2011 Panasonic TV here, which never got Netflix and has just lost YouTube, and isn't supported by many of the new Freeview IP based channels. Firefox OS or not, I'm unlikely to buy another Smart TV from them again.

        1. Trooper_ID

          Re: Freeview Play

          odd, my 2011 Panasonic has just had a firmware update and is fine, apart from what I now know are NITs, or a lack of. I am thinking of upgrading my TV simply because it is noticeably dim compared to the smaller SHARP tv we bought for the bedroom. I generally record stuff on SKY+ so that we can watch it at times suitable for us, and so that we can skip the inane and infuriating adverts. Online catchup is rarely used, and due to rural living and dire bandwidth, downloads and Internet based tv services are a non starter for us.

  10. Joey M0usepad Silver badge

    uhd? i dont want hd!

    I have a freeview hd vbox , and tv. I got all the hardware , and its all set up.

    I dont watch HD though because swithing to hdmi1 takes about 2 seconds longer than switching to scart1 . also if i watch a hd channel its up in the 300's and far away from the non hd channels.

    In actual quality , on a 32" tv its barely distinguishable

    1. GreggS

      Re: uhd? i dont want hd!

      Most (if not all) of the HD channels on Freeview and Freesat are now in the 100 range so you must have a VERY old box and TV. I had the argument with my dad some time ago on the visual differences between HD and SD - his old eyes couldn't (or didn't want to) see the difference, my slightly younger ones can, even on a 32" set.

      1. Lamont Cranston

        Re: uhd? i dont want hd!

        I can spot the difference between Freeview and Freeview HD but, on a 32" TV, the difference isn't so great that it's worth worrying about.

        1. ZippedyDooDah

          Re: uhd? i dont want hd!

          Size is relative. Don't forget how near or far away the TV might be.

      2. Test Man

        Re: uhd? i dont want hd!

        I wish that the Freeview spec mandated the use of automatic update of the channel list. I had an old box that did do that but no other box or TV owned since does this, so I have to retune every few months only when I hear that there is a new channel or a reorg. It's worse than the analogue days, I mean we're in the digital age so why do we still have to retune? Come on, Sky have solved this one even when it was still analogue!

        1. Bob H

          Re: uhd? i dont want hd!

          @Test Man,

          The Freeview specification (DTG D-Book) does have a system called Network Change Notification Descriptor and it has been around for a few years, any decent product should support it.

    2. D@v3

      Re: HD channels

      Mine were up in the 100's until i spent 5 mins with the remote using the menu on the tv to swap the HD ones for the non-HD ones.

      Swapping channels (creating your own channel list) is something that all freeview tv's i have had for some time, have been able to do. Great for getting rid of all the crap 'low' channels (itv, itv2, bbc3), and bringing in the ones you want from further down the list (5usa, cbs action).

      1. Trooper_ID

        Re: HD channels

        ha ha, and for us it is the opposite, we like the various ITV and BBC channels and move further away the america centric channels

      2. King Jack
        Facepalm

        Re: HD channels

        Right up until the next re-tune, where it all reverts back.

  11. Davidmb

    Why this will succeed

    It's based on HbbTV, which is the same standard used in Europe. TV manufacturers are already supporting it - part of the reason they were lukewarm towards YouView. Having it built into TVs as standard means people will use it by default.

  12. MrXavia

    So, Freeview Play, will Samsung upgrade their TV's with it? considering one of the selling points of the TV I brought this year was the fact it could be upgraded....

    Answer? Unlikely.. (although I have to admit they have been pretty good at pushing out updates for my 3 year old phone)

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Very unlikely...

      Red Button+ (a precursor to Freeview Play) which the BBC rolled out this month and supposedly supports my Samsung TV. doesn't work and has crippled the regular Red Button service. Samsung have never heard of "Red Button+" and the BBC simply sent me a link to a PR piece on how wonderful Red Button+ is when I told them it didn't work.

      Ironically the Samsung TV was supplied in February 2015 under a retailer warranty to replace a 4-year-old Toshiba RV753 which no longer works with Freeview HD (and which is clearly not going to be fixed).

      So that's the state of product support today and it will only get worse...

      1. john.beech

        Re: Very unlikely...

        Hi Warm Braw,

        I work with the Red Button+ team and we're interested in understanding your issue - you should be receiving the regular Red Button service on devices that don't support Red Button+.

        Could you post your make and model of device, and I will let the team know directly.

        Kind regards,

        - John

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    same old

    "[I've] got thirteen channels of sh1t on the T.V. to choose from" - 1979, Pink Floyd, Nobody Home.

    If it is HD or UHD, or even 1300 channels, not a lot has changed.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: same old

      Freeview mux COM8 has just launched with QVC HD+1. Says it all...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Live TV and record everything

    I - like many people - like live TV - it is a bit like going to someone's house for dinner, you get limited choice if any and get to try something you might not have thought about. Often one of the best TV choices is to switch it off.

    Having said that, I would not be surprised that in the near future you will be able to buy PVRs with so much storage that they just record all the time and there is no need for catchup over IP - you'll have the programmes stored already locally. We've already made such a system at work - it has a rolling 2 weeks worth and records several multiplexes. The amount of storage will be consider little in a few years.

    1. Lamont Cranston
      Unhappy

      Re: Live TV and record everything

      I miss News Bunny.

    2. Tom Samplonius

      Re: Live TV and record everything

      "...I would not be surprised that in the near future you will be able to buy PVRs with so much storage that they just record all the time and there is no need for catchup over IP"

      Probably traditional broadcast TV would be dead before that happens. Broadcast TV is dying pretty fast. I think you may be the one person in a thousand that likes live TV. And unfortunately that will not be enough to save it.

  15. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Confused

    Which of the "prime time" TV offerings shown on that TV image would be improved by 4K ?

    Most of them would only be improved by being shown in Ascii art on a ZX81

    1. Arnold Lieberman
      Headmaster

      Re: Confused

      Notwithstanding the ZX81's lack of support for ASCII.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First sort out frame rates

    Before doing 4k resolution and HDR, perhaps look at the fundamental issues with connected streaming:

    1) Mismatched frame rates: streaming hardware and software not outputting 50Hz.

    2) The above in combination with unsuitable output frame rates, such as 25p (or 30p) delivered from 50i source material. Not suitable for sports, or anything really,

    Why can't the standards bodies get busy sorting this out, as it seems the commercial powers, or BBC, are unable to get it right by themselves?

    It's an embarrassment to the industry that a 1950s TV has far better temporal resolution than a massive flat screen showing some streamed sports event.

    1. HobartTas

      Re: First sort out frame rates

      I agree as interlacing was a brilliant idea as for still images it showed full resolution and for moving images it was updated 50 times a second (analog PAL). I'm not familiar at all with the method of broadcasting for digital TV but if you consider Mpeg-2 P-frames I don't see a problem (as a concept) of replacing each full frame (assuming each frame was already a P-frame) with two half frames (giving 100 Hz of updates) or even 4 quarter frames giving 200 Hz of updates. Alternate options conceptually could be possible as well like say simulcasting on another effectively available channel intervening frames e.g. frames 1,3,5,7... on the main channel and frames 2,4,6,8.... on another one and if your TV is sophisticated enough combine the two together to double the Hz. From a practical perspective nothing like this will probably eventuate however.

      As far as I understand it 100Hz and 200Hz TV's simply interpolate between each of the 50p frames and display intermediate results which as far as I can tell works reasonably well so that's another reason nobody will probably be bothering to do anything about this issue. We might have better luck if more films are created with double the normal picture rate (e.g. The Hobbit, Avatar 2+) so when 4K broadcasting takes off they may well consider this and build in this higher refresh capability up front. We can only hope!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First sort out frame rates

        When HDTV first came out (around 10 years ago, mind you), there was a bandwidth limitation. In the US, for example, the channel allocations allow for a maximum bandwidth of 19Mbit/sec. At this rate, full 1080p can only be of acceptable quality at rates no higher than 30fps, so it's typically only reserved for film (which normally runs at 24fps). For other applications, you have two choices: you can either accept interlacing (1080i60/30) or reduce the resolution (and use 720p, which can do 60fps within 19Mbit/sec acceptably). The consensus is currently split: some stations go 1080i for sports to get the higher resolution, others use 720p for smoother motion.

        Of course, technology has moved on, but TVs typically don't. Even today your average HDTV is meant to stick around for a decade or so, maybe not in the same room (say the family room TV is replaced and the old one moved to the master bedroom), but still in use.

        1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

          Re: First sort out frame rates

          Yes, but online steaming of 50Hz material is still not possible. I would like to see some F1 at 50 fps, but forget it. I'll get 25p output at 60Hz because some US techie (or manager or both) is to daft to understand that 60Hz isn't the only existing standard. It's all just pathetic.

          Since all HD TVs show both 50 and 60 Hz, and most 24 Hz as well nowdays, any attached streaming device should be able to output those refresh rates. But they don't.

          I honestly have seen no signs that anything has "moved on" in any meaningful way.

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