The five free-to-air television networks in Australia have never agreed on much. But they have put their swords down temporarily to combat flagging audience numbers with a “world-first” app.
The Freeview FV mobile app allows users (for free, of course) to view live streaming and catch up services from the one place.
The app was launched this morning on iOS and Android, and starts off with live streaming of ABC, SBS, Seven, Channel 9, Ten, One, ABC2/ABC Kids, ABC ME, ABC News 24, 7Two, 7Mate, 7Flix, Racing.com, 9Gem, 9Go! and 9Life. Other channels are expected to be on-boarded as soon as they start digital streaming.
The catch-up, or video-on-demand, services for all five networks – SBS On Demand, ABC iView, Plus7, 9Now, and Tenplay – are also accessible from the Freeview FV app. However, this will be a referral service only and will require the individual catch-up app to be also present on the device.
The Freeview FV app is designed to work on both iPhones and iPads, but for Android users it is only optimised for mobile devices. Location services also needs to be switched on the device for software to work.
Freeview, an alliance of the five free-to-air networks, has claimed a world-first with its software. The industry has copped declining audience numbers in the face of digital-only streaming services such as Netflix and Stan; subscription TV providers such as Foxtel; and the fragmentation of viewers through multiple free-to-air channels.
Fairfax Media reported in April that free-to-air television audience numbers had dropped 5% in the year-to-date, according to figures from ratings agency OzTAM. Morgan Stanley has predicted that advertising spend on traditional (non-digital) media would drop from a peak of more than 1.3% of GDP in the mid-1980s to just over 0.2% by 2020.
“The Australian FTA industry has united to create and deliver a powerful mobile consumer experience – in no other market has an FTA industry collaborated to create its own live streaming app,” said Freeview chief executive Liz Ross.
Viewer numbers from the app will count towards ratings, as measured and reported through OzTAM.
“This is a fantastic new way for people to enjoy TV on their terms and never miss a thing, especially when they’re on the go. It’s great news for viewers and we’ve worked hard to create a powerful, simple and user-friendly experience,” said Freeview chief executive Liz Ross.
One major exception to free-to-air live streaming and catch up services are sports. Most sporting organisations sell the digital streaming and video-on-demand broadcast rights separately to the television contract, so some events may not be seen through Freeview FV.
Ross said that the new app would appeal especially to commuters, as her organisation sought to meet new viewer expectations for convenience.
The app also includes a TV guide, browse and search functionality for all free-to-air programs, favourites and reminders, and program recommendations.
Freeview FV can already mirror to Apple TV using AirPlay. Business Insider has contacted Freeview about any plans to support Google Chromecast.