Rather than waiting for Freeview’s launch, SBS has gone live with its new Catch Up TV app. Freeview is in the final phase of testing its new FreeviewPlus Smart TV app, which offers a 7-day onscreen Electronic Program Guide and easy access to online Catch Up TV. The five major broadcasters have each developed their own app, yet SBS has broken ranks and launched “in beta” ahead of the official FreeviewPlus launch. The official launch of Freeview’s long-promised Catch Up TV service has been delayed several times and is now slated for July, but could be pushed back again. The delays are in part due to video streaming and Digital Rights Management interoperability issues, with the networks undertaking rigorous testing and Freeview introducing a certification process for compatible televisions.
While SBS has been offering catch up programming via its SBS On Demand app on pretty much every platform known to man – including the PS4 and Xbox One – the one area that has been missing is direct from broadcast TV. Fortunately, SBS has addressed this by becoming the first Australian broadcaster to begin broadcasting an HbbTV signal, a hybrid network that combines free-to-air broadcasts and the power of IPTV. The SBS beta, which was switched on overnight, allows viewers of selected televisions to view the SBS On Demand catch up service from their TV remote by simply pressing a coloured button. The TV then overlays the catch up service over the top of the TV broadcast, allowing you to continue watching the World Cup while browsing the On Demand library. While HbbTV isn’t exactly a catchy marketing term, consumers will become much more familiar with the technology later this year when the free to air networks combine to launch FreeViewPlus, a unified platform for HbbTV broadcasts. FreeViewPlus promises additional benefits over the initial SBS beta, including up to date EPG and integrated catch up services from all the free-to-air networks. When FreeViewPlus launches, the SBS HbbTV beta will continue to exist, integrating itself into the unified hybrid broadcast.