Following the move earlier this week by Britain's publicly-owned Channel 4 to join the Freeview consortium [WAMN: 11-Oct-05], the nation's largest commercial broadcaster ITV has now followed suit.
Until Wednesday, ITV refused to confirm it is to purchase a stake in the highly successful digital terrestrial TV platform, telling WAMN "we do not comment on media speculation".
Freeview is currently owned by three directly interested parties: the BBC, News Corporation-owned satellite monopoly BSkyB and network transmission specialist Crown Castle. They are now joined by ITV and Channel 4, both of which will hold a 20% stake in the platform.
Many analysts believe that within 2-3 years Freeview, currently installed in over five million UK homes, will overtake BSkyB (7m homes) as the UK's leading provider of digital TV .
Says ITV chairman Charles Allen: "The rapid growth of the DTT [digital terrestrial television] platform and the success of Freeview offer a great opportunity for ITV as a content provider, channel owner and multiplex licence holder.
He continued: "There are very real benefits for ITV in growing and developing Freeview, and the most effective way for us to do that is to be at the heart of the marketing effort."
He did not explain ITV's curious reluctance to confirm its Freeview investment coincident with Channel 4's announcement.
Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff