U.K. platform launches Free Time service

LONDON — U.K. free-to-air digital satellite platform, Freesat, is planning to offer at least one subscription on-demand movie service as it attempts to lure more viewers away from pay box BSkyB.

The development emerged as Freesat bowed its new Free Time service that offers auds greater functionality including a backwards TV guide and on-demand shows from terrestrial broadcasters including those accessed via the BBC iPlayer.

A deal with Netflix or LoveFilm is on the cards as Freesat takes aim at pay TV providers BSkyB and cable web Virgin.

Freesat said that around half its customers were viewers who had cancelled subscriptions to pay boxes, including BSkyB.

Freesat, backed by the BBC and ITV, is now in 2.6 million U.K. homes compared with BSkyB’s 10.3 million.

Freesat managing director Emma Scott said, “We are talking to a number of potential partners and expect to have a pay movie service available for viewers within a year. Movies that audiences are prepared to pay for is one thing research tells us that people are keen to see on Freesat.”

Potential providers of on-demand movies include Netflix, LoveFilm, Blinkbox and even BSkyB’s new service Now. Scott is also lining up a pay music service.

Launched four years ago, Freesat gives auds around 150 channels for £60 ($95) for a set top box, plus the expense of the satellite dish.

The new Free Time box, offering a DVR, the backwards TV guide, on-demand TV and daily TV picks, costs $443 and will compete with the recently launched smart U.K. TV platform, YouView, whose investors include the BBC, ITV and British Telecom.

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