Could Free TV be the new Pay TV?

The other night I went to bed with Paxman. His typical wit and insight on the global credit crunch got me thinking about where the belt can be tightened in my own household. As the Sky EPG finally bid me farewell after I had convinced myself that there was nothing on worth watching live and everything on my Sky+ box demanded more than the 12 minutes or so I was prepared to give it, my mind focussed what I pay for TV. A rather interesting picture started to form.

I, like Parkinson and Felicity Kendal, am a Sky+ fan. It’s easy and works for me. Point, shoot, job done. I would estimate that 75% of my watching is ‘off line’, so to speak. However, a review of what is currently sitting on my hard drive is rather revealing – Heroes, Madman, Jonathan Ross and at least 2 movies for the wife, QI, the cricket, Have I Got News for You and Panorama for me. Mmm..mostly provided by free to air channels. OK, so why am I not on FreeView?

They have Sky+ like recorders, so why the reluctance? Well sorry for being picky but the picture just doesn’t do it for me. All this ‘digital TV means quality’, ‘like the step up from LP to CD’ is rubbish. I’d put it on the TV in the kitchen at a push, but on my beautiful new HD Ready 40” work of art you have got to be joking. The truth is multi-channel broadcast TV needs lots of bandwidth. An awful lot of it, in fact, and digital terrestrial (that’s Freeview from that old aerial still sitting on the roof) does not enjoy an over abundance of it.

So Freesat. There’s an idea. HD too and in a few month’s time with a rather neat PVR. So, all I need to do is convince the wife that Film4 does provide all she really needs and we are laughing. Mmm, not sure that’s going to do it.

I see that iTunes launched their video service in the UK last month. This is online video retailing at its most impressive. I could also use this as an excuse to buy that exquisite Apple TV device. Plug one end into the TV, the other into the phone line and I get more video content than the wife can ever want. It will talk wirelessly to my computer and my iPod Touch to share the content around my house. Very neat. It’s HD as well.

So let me work this out. Multichannel TV, PVR, movies on demand that we pay for only when we watch them and much of all of this in HD. Compared to the £55 per month I currently pay Sky for my fully loaded Sky+ HD service I would be able to watch pretty much everything I currently want to watch, watch it when I want to watch it, have my wife rent 2 movies per week from a choice currently over 1,000 (£2.50 to £3.50 a go) for less than £25.

But where’s my sport? Well I can always take the £30 I save and meet my friends down the pub and watch it there. Although I still have to find the additional £200 to buy the hardware. Now, where’s my calculator….

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