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FREEVISION TO CHALLENGE OPENVIEW HD

State-owned signal distributor Sentech will rebrand its satellite service Vivid as Freevision from the end of September.

Sentech’s direct-to-home satellite service, Vivid, is being rebranded as Freevision as the company gears up to take on OpenView HD, which Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI), the owner of e.tv, intends launching in October.

Vivid is the platform the state-owned broadcasting signal distributor uses to offer free-to-air programming to outlying areas where there are no terrestrial television signals.

News of the plans comes just a month after Platco Digital, a company in the HCI stable, revealed plans to launch OpenView HD, offering around 15 channels free to South Africans consumers in a mix of standard- and high-definition formats.

Sentech says the launch of Freevision will “ensure alignment of the company’s broader electronic communications network services with its public service mandate obligations and the changing media landscape brought about by digital convergence”.

It says Freevision will allow public and community broadcasters to distribute their content to all South Africans. Under the terms of the broadcasting digital migration policy, those broadcasters operating on the first digital terrestrial television multiplex (this is a chunk of broadcasting spectrum) need to ensure they provide coverage throughout the country, even in areas that are difficult or economically challenging to reach.

Freevision will be distributed using the Intelsat 20 satellite (the same one used by MultiChoice for DStv). Sentech says this means the majority of viewers in South Africa won’t need to install a second satellite dish or change the position of their existing dish to access the service. OpenView HD, on the other hand, has decided to use the SES satellite on which On Digital Media’s TopTV provides its channels.

Sentech CEO Setumo Mohapi says the Freevision platform will reduce the cost of broadcasting signal distribution services and “make multichannel broadcasting signal distribution tariffs affordable”, encouraging new players of all sizes to join the broadcasting sector.

Sentech has not yet disclosed the cost of the Freevision set-top box required to receive broadcasts nor the content it will carry. It says both will be made available to the public in due course.

Source: (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media – Craig Wilson