) is a term used in the United Kingdom
for certain television channels on the Sky Digital
satellite platform which require a working VideoGuard
receiver and viewing card to decrypt the signals, but do not require any form of continual subscription.
Free-to-view vs. free-to-air
The free-to-view system contrasts with free-to-air
(FTA), in which signals are sent unencrypted and are available for all to see with any DVB-S
decoder. Over 100 channels are currently free-to-air, while only a few channels are free-to-view.
Commercial restrictions and targeting
The free-to-view system allows for restricting access based on location of the viewer. For example, commercial stations such as Five
are made available to viewers in the United Kingdom
, but are restricted in the Republic of Ireland
and northern France
, even though these areas are covered by the same satellite footprint
, Astra 2D
. Since BSkyB requires all its viewers to supply their addresses when registering, the broadcaster can select which channels that viewer can decrypt.
Using the same idea at a more parochial level , free-to-view encryption cards also allow for selecting the correct regional TV output based on the viewer's address. For example, by using the postcode given when registering the viewing card, a viewer based in Birmingham will have his/her configuration set to receive BBC1 West Midlands and ITV1 Central West on channel numbers 101 and 103 respectively. All regional variations are available, however, and the BBC regions are allocated channel numbers in the 900 series. ITV regions can be tuned in by using the "other channels" function.
Free-to-view channels can be viewed with a dark blue
Sky viewing card, be it one provided by the Freesat from Sky
scheme, one from British Telecom
's former Solus scheme, or an inactive former Sky card. All active Sky cards get the channels that are part of their subscription package. A Sky decoder box is required due to the lack of VideoGuard Conditional Access Modules
Seven standard definition channels are currently free-to-view — Five
, Five US
, Five US +1
, Setanta Sports News
, and Sky3
— plus one high definition channel - Channel 4 HD
's eight digital channels - including BBC One
and BBC Two
, were encrypted under the scheme from their launch on digital satellite until July 14
, when they became free-to-air. Shortly after this, ITV stated its intentions to go free-to-air eventually, and launched their newest channel, ITV3
, in the clear on November 1 2004
. This was followed up by ITV moving its Men & Motors
channel to FTA in July 2005
. This gradual conversion was completed on November 1
, with ITV1
going FTA. The ITV's latest channel, ITV4
, was launched at the same time, also as a free-to-air service. All the BBC and ITV channels therefore can be viewed by any suitable receiver, and do not need any registration with BSkyB.
The free-to-view system offered by BSkyB was initially designed to offer the UK's 5 terrestrial broadcasters to viewers who did not want a subscription package. Now that the FTV system carries only the two less popular channels (16% viewership combined), and an additional channel from the systems provider, the scheme does not seem to have an assured future.
On September 7, 2005, ITV announced that they would be forming a consortium for the development of a free-to-air satellite platform with the BBC, using the BBC trademark Freesat. It is expected that Sky will now have to rename their FTV card scheme. In addition, Sky had added their own channel Sky3 to the FTV lineup, presumably to improve its attractiveness over Free to Air systems, but the channel is carried FTA on the terrestrial service Freeview. A Freesat_From_Sky installation costs £150, with a PVR function available for £10 monthly.
Free-to-view schemes outside the UK
Outside the UK, other public-service broadcasters (for example those of Switzerland
) and the Netherlands
) run a similar scheme using different encryption methods.
In Australia, the Optus Aurora service is available for those who can not receive a satisfactory terrestrial signal. A one-off purchase of an Irdeto access card is required.