SYDNEY: Yesterday's launch of FreeviewPlus, a service that combines broadband and broadcast TV, has been called the most important advance in free-to-air television in Australia since the introduction of digital TV.

The hybrid broadcast broadband TV (HbbTV) platform delivers a free-to-air TV electronic program guide with added features along with catch-up services covering the previous seven days programmes.

"FreeviewPlus is all about giving Australians the best free-to-air TV experience, allowing viewers to find and watch their favourite shows when they want to watch them on their TV with the simple press of a button," said Liz Ross, General Manager of Freeview.

Media buyers were a little more cautious, suggesting that while there was clearly huge potential in the new technology there was not going to be a dramatic change in viewing habits in the short term.

"We have been made a lot promises in the past around the future of television and obviously this technology is fantastic, but it also involves the consumers catching up and using the technology," Ian Perrin, head of ZenithOptimedia Australia, told Ad News. "That will take a bit longer than we would all like," he added.

While FreeviewPlus is aiming for 10% market penetration in the first year, the set-top boxes offering the service are not yet available to consumers although a marketing campaign is under way to drive awareness of the product.

John Alderton, Director of research at media agency Dentsu Aegis, also expected a slow take-up, as consumers were already spoilt for choice.

"The carrot for consumers will be content which will be new and exciting content," he said. "But there is already exciting new content available online without buying new equipment in the form of Netflix, Youtube, catch-up TV, free or at very low prices."

Audience fragmentation was also highlighted by Peter Horgan, OMD ceo, but he argued there was no point in worrying about that. "What you lose on the broadcast blunderbuss, in terms of the effectiveness of linear TV, a new opportunity emerges on smart targeting and much higher conversion rates when you move to targeting the individual rather than the mass," he said

"Clients will be interested in this but right now, with less than 1% penetration with TVs, we are talking about the future model (of television)," he concluded.

Data sourced from Ad News; additional content by Warc staff