freesat considering pay TV options, failing to understand the word 'free'

Despite its name suggesting it might be in the market for providing no-cost entertainment, it seems freesat might be trying to launch a premium service too

Ian Morris
2 min read

freesat is a free satellite TV service aimed at people who don't want to pay for TV, but still want a broader selection of channels than you see on Freeview. Oddly then, freesat has implied it might like to start up a pay TV service all of its own. It surprised us -- if you want satellite TV with a monthly subscription, surely you'd go to Sky?

freesat is considering offering premium subscription channels, such as Sky Sports, for a monthly subscription fee, according to the Guardian. How happy Sky will be about licensing its channels to another satellite broadcaster remains to be seen, especially one operated by the BBC, its arch-enemy. freesat may have another premium broadcaster in mind, but there aren't many with channels people would be prepared to pay for.

That's not the only problem -- the vast majority of freesat boxes and TVs have no mechanism to allow users to subscribe to premium channels. Most don't have a conditional access module (CAM) that would allow them to decode paid-for channels. It's almost certainly possible to send encryption information via other routes, such as the Internet, but it's not the standard way of doing things, and sure to cause problems, not to mention be less secure than a card solution.

Whatever plans freesat may have for its platform, it will need the permission of the BBC Trust before it can start. We can't help but think adding a pay service to a platform advertised as 'free forever' might confuse punters, especially considering Sky has a free satellite option too, called 'Freesat from Sky'. We really can't see freesat getting permission for this, and we can't see Sky being all that happy if it does.