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Digital Media

Freeview launches mobile TV app, but you still can't have it all

Finally! With the Freeview app, channel surfing on your phone won't require a thousand apps. But if you're expecting all TV on your mobile, the broadcasters aren't quite ready to give it to you yet.

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Freeview is bringing free-to-air TV to mobile.

Freeview

Ever since Australians started getting TV streaming on demand, it's fair to say we've started to expect more from media across the board. But until now, free-to-air TV hasn't quite met the task.

That could change today with the arrival of the Freeview FV app, which lets you stream every digital free-to-air TV channel to your mobile, for free.

The app was announced in October and has been put together by Freeview, the industry body that wrangles all Australia's broadcasters together to get them to play nice for the sake of Australian viewers. Freeview brought them together for the splashy launch of digital TV, and for the decidedly more fragmented launch of Hybrid Broadband television (HbbTV), which it dubbed Freeview Plus.

The idea behind the Freeview app is an easy sell -- it's regular TV, streamed straight to your phone.

The app lets you watch live TV or catch-up programs, and shows are all series-linked. That means when you tap on a program to watch, you'll see all the electronic program guide (EPG) metadata, like show synopses as well as upcoming episodes and previously-aired episodes available on catch up.

Freeview is borrowing from other streaming interfaces with nifty features like the ability to set reminders, create a list of favourite programs or tap out direct to the channel's own catch-up TV site.

The Freeview FV app features live and catch-up TV.

Freeview

But even with all the broadcasters playing together, you still won't get everything on the app.

Some top-tier sporting codes have already sold digital rights to other players -- such as the AFL, which is exclusive to Telstra -- so when you tune into Channel 7 during game time, you won't see the match.

Other channels are choosing not to stream everything direct to mobile, for what Freeview CEO Liz Ross calls "strategic" reasons, and that includes Channel 10.

During my demo with the app, on a Wednesday afternoon at roughly 2 p.m., the Ten Network's primary channel was greyed out with a "not available at this time" message.

It's a minor inconvenience (more so if you want your "Bold and the Beautiful" fix) but it's a sign of one of the things that could hold the Freeview app back.

It's a simple enough concept to bake everything together into the one app -- these are features you can take advantage of on digital TVs after all -- but until now, you would have had to download a separate app for each individual channel you wanted to watch. That means apps for iView, SBS OnDemand, TenPlay, Plus7 and 9Now stealing home screen real estate.

But Australia's broadcasters may still want to protect those apps, as well as their individual brands and terrestrial broadcast ad revenues. Whatever their "strategic" reasons are behind closed doors, it still sells viewers short.

Freeview has pulled off the seemingly mammoth task of getting all of Australia's media players to come to the table. And they need to, or they risk losing viewers to the lure of the glossy, seamless video on demand apps that Australians are already using.

But the success of Freeview on your mobile will all come down to broadcasters recognising that the TV is no longer the indefatigable centre of our lives. It's our smartphones.