ITV is about to make major changes to its HD service. From next Tuesday all its regions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be available in HD on satellite.
This means Sky HD viewers in these three nations will all get ITV on 103. Until now the HD service could only be shown on 103 where it was identical to the SD service.
This meant viewers in Yorkshire East, Central East, Anglia West and two of the Meridian regions had to switch to a higher channel number to watch HD, but they’d miss out on the correct regional news programme and local adverts.
The ITV HD service on Freesat is also moving to 103.
The only regions controlled by ITV plc which will remain SD only are Channel and Border Scotland. (STV has all four of its regions in HD on Sky but only one on Freesat.)
This effectively means ITV now sees HD as its master service across most of the country – at last. The SD stream on satellite is, in effect, a legacy for those who don’t have appropriate equipment.
Ratings suggest that when ITV HD was not on 103, a significant number with HD equipment were still tuning into the SD service out of habit.
So what might this mean for other public service broadcasters?
Channel 5 is already in HD on 105 – it has no regional variations whatsoever.
Channel 4 HD is only on 104 in London – the issue for Channel 4 is regional advertising. Might the channel introduce extra streams one day or, like Channel 5, drop regional advertising? Channel 4 HD hasn’t been listed on the Freesat EPG since 2018, due to a disagreement over fees but the channel can be received on Freesat equipment via the manual tuning route.
BBC Two HD is on 102 in Scotland and England. BBC Two Wales HD is on 102 in Wales. However, BBC Two Northern Ireland HD is not yet available on DSAT – surely this must only be a matter of time?
BBC One Northern Ireland/Scotland/Wales HD is available in the respective nations. A national BBC One HD service is available in the English regions on 115 – channel 101 carries a regionalised SD version of BBC One.
But will ITV’s move finally push the BBC to start rolling out BBC One HD in the English regions? It would seem a long overdue move for the main public service channel – especially as many regional centres now have HD studio equipment and the 6.30pm regional programme is often the top-rated slot on the channel.
Ironically, it is reportedly the lack of BBC One HD in the English regions which stops ITV from putting all its HD variants on Freeview. Presumably this is linked to the technicalities of multiplexing.
Competition can be for the public good – innovation can lead to further innovation.
Hopefully this move by ITV will be just what the BBC needs.
PICTURED: ITV break bumper (as pictured on DSAT). COPYRIGHT: ITV plc.