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Freeview Plus determined that Australian viewers never run out of content options on free-to-air

Freeview Plus
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Freeview Plus is the hybrid broadcast broadband offering that brings together the free-to-air channels in Australia and provides their streaming apps under one roof, complementing the original broadcast-only Freeview offering. It won a Connies award last year for the ‘Best TV/Video Service Update or Launch’ category thanks to its successful UI upgrade in 2017, which resulted in an impressive 5% increase in the average time viewers stayed each time they visited the platform. As we reported at the time, this is an important achievement in an age when SVOD providers and direct-to-consumer OTT offers (and game consoles, and social media!) are fighting for eyeballs.

Netflix is popular in Australia and Amazon Prime Video is growing, so we caught up with Liz Ross, CEO at Freeview Australia, to check on progress at Freeview Plus in its fight to keep viewers in front of broadcaster content. Given that the core value-add for a broadcast/IP platform is streaming, she is pleased with the 74% growth in streaming sessions between 2017 and 2018, the latest year-on-year figures available. Content discovery is the key to success, she believes, as part of a first-rate user experience, especially if you want to appeal to heavy TV users and those who consume multiple services. “Heavy TV viewers are more critical, and the more products you use, the harsher you are as a judge.”

This observation is supported by consumer research that Freeview Australia commissioned in late 2018 as it plotted its future product evolution. So, what comes next? “We have to surface our best content really quickly, using recommendations and the way we offer a carousel of programming options for people to browse. There is a short window of time that we have to display this,” Ross explains. There will be a push towards more personalisation, as well.

A key principle behind Freeview Plus – which pioneered the use of HbbTV for aggregating free-to-air content – is to always give viewers an onward journey. This is achieved with the simple but effective Red button and Green button options whenever you are watching a broadcast channel – the first taking you to the broadcaster’s own streaming service and the second to Freeview Plus and a wider choice of on-demand content from across all the broadcasters. “If you are watching ABC but don’t like the next show, instead of going to Netflix you can find a carousel of good documentaries that are available on-demand,” Ross notes.

Freeview Plus launched in 2014 and is the reason 4.3 million Australian homes have now bought an HbbTV receiver. That figure is up 40% in a year. Freeview advertises the service on TV for 35 weeks of the year to drive home the message that there is an expanded world of broadcast content waiting for you, easy to find, on the TV set, without subscription.

The Connies 2019 are open for entries – and the first deadline is Friday, February 8. You can find more details here.

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