Following a series of trial broadcasts over the past few months, high-definition television service Freeview HD has today been officially launched.
The service, described as a coming of age for HD TV, brings detailed high-definition broadcasts to millions of viewers without the need for a satellite dish or cable provider.
In order to tune in to Freeview HD transmissions, however, viewers will require TVs or set-top-boxes equipped with a new DVB-T2 tuner. Freeview HD receivers are already available at retail, with Freeview+ HD PVRs expected to become widely available next month.
Suggesting that the rollout of its HD service is firmly on track, Freeview has reiterated that it will reach 50 per cent UK coverage in time for the 2010 World Cup, starting June 11th. Leading up to that milestone, the service will become available to a further 4.5 million viewers starting tomorrow, as Freeview HD coverage becomes available in Birmingham, Leeds and Cardiff.
Freeview HD currently offers two dedicated high-definition channels; BBC HD and Channel 4 HD, with a third - ITV 1 HD - scheduled to become available by the end of the week. For Welsh viewers, Channel 4's S4C HD will become available on April 30th.
To mark the introduction of the service, Freeview will launch its largest-ever marketing campaign this coming Easter bank holiday weekend. The £6m campaign will feature a series of TV ads carrying the slogan "It feels good to Freeview". The campaign is expected to run until the end of the 2010 World Cup, and will run once again during the Christmas period.
Commenting on the launch, Freeview managing director Ilse Howling said: "Freeview is taking the experience of stunning HD to a new level of access and availability. Our high definition service offers many of the UK’s favourite shows in glorious high definition and as always with Freeview, you just need to buy the equipment and there’s no contract or monthly bills. And with the World Cup just around the corner, there is no better time for viewers to embrace High Definition TV."
Echoing Howling's comments, BBC controller of HD Danielle Nagler adds that "the arrival of HD on Freeview is a big step forward for HD and for UK audiences".
Freeview lists the highlights of its HD schedule as follows:
BBC HD: The best of BBC programming is brought together on the BBC HD channel, including for the first time the new series of Doctor Who and Ashes to Ashes which launch in April. In a summer of sporting events, BBC HD will be broadcasting more sport than ever before, with Wimbledon, Queen’s, the World Cup, and for the first time in HD, The Open and the Grand National. The BBC also announces that The Apprentice and Masterchef will launch in HD. Other highlights include Something Special and ZingZillas for children; Over the Rainbow, Top Gear, Antiques Roadshow, as well as almost every music programme from Glastonbury to the Electric Proms.
ITV1 HD: Simulcast of the ITV1 schedule. Upcoming highlights include; the final stages of the UEFA Champions League and The FA Cup as well as England internationals and the FIFA World Cup 2010. For HD Entertainment, there’s the UK’s top rating TV show, Britain’s Got Talent as well as The Whole 19 Yards, 71 Degrees North, and Soccer Aid. HD dramas include Father & Son, Law and Order: UK, Identity, The Prisoner, Foyles War and Lewis. HD documentaries including Joanna Lumley’s Nile, Greatest Cities of the World with Griff Rhys Jones, and the brand new Survival with Ray Mears all in pure HD. ITV1’s Prime Ministerial debate will also be shown in HD.
Channel 4 HD: Simulcast of the Channel 4 schedule. Upcoming highlights include Glee, Jamie Does and Location, Location, Location as well as the best documentaries, current affairs and music. Other popular shows available in HD include The Restoration Man, Desperate Housewives, Hollyoaks and Shameless.
S4C Clirlun: Simulcast of the S4C schedule. Programme highlights will include major Welsh cultural events, drama, exclusive sport, nature and children. (Available in Wales from April 30th)