IMPALA Hails Success of UK's MHEG-Based Free-to-Air Satellite TV Platform, Freesat

--Platform Provides Access to BBC iPlayer via MHEG Interaction Channel
--Sagemcom Says its Freesat STB's Now Support iPlayer Access

The International MHEG Promotion Alliance (IMPALA), an organization that was set up in 2006 by Strategy & Technology, Cabot Communications and EchoStar Europe to promote use of the MHEG middleware standard beyond the UK, has issued a public statement hailing the success of the UK's free-to-air satellite TV platform, Freesat, which has just announced that it has passed the one million customer mark.

Freesat, a joint venture between the BBC and commercial terrestrial broadcaster, ITV, has used MHEG as its interactive TV middleware since its launch (note: the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial service, Freeview, also employs MHEG middleware). It is now conducting a beta roll-out of a hybrid service that will use the MHEG Interaction Channel to provide access to the BBC iPlayer and other programming catch-up/broadband VOD services: in January, Freesat and the BBC began providing Freesat viewers with the BBC iPlayer by officially releasing the code needed to access the service (note: the service was initially available on Humax's Freesat set-tops and is now also available on Sony Freesat TV sets and on Sagemcom Freesat set-tops--see below). Once their set-top or TV is connected to the Internet via Ethernet or wireless (they need a minimum connection speed of 1 Mbps), viewers type in a four-digit code to activate the iPlayer on Freesat. ITV has also announced plans to make its ITV Player service available to Freesat viewers. Freesat is the first service in the world to deploy the MHEG Interaction Channel, according to IMPALA. "The growth of Freesat has been supported by a vibrant receiver retail marketplace which in turn is enabled by the use of MHEG as the middleware," IMPALA founder member, Bob Lamb, said in a prepared statement. "We welcome its success and the groundbreaking deployment of the MHEG Interaction Channel."

In related news: French set-top box company, Sagemcom, has announced that its Freesat HD set-top and its Freesat+ HD DVR now provide access to the BBC iPlayer. In order to access the service, viewers press red while tuned to any BBC network or channel, except for Cbeebies and CBBC, and enter the code, "5483." "Sagemcom is a leader in set-top box technology and we aim to provide our customers with products that they need," Sagemcom managing director, Raphael Fainac, said in a prepared statement. "The BBC iPlayer has gained tremendous support since its launch and with all of the UK having either Freeview or Freesat, the BBC iPlayer service is a great addition to our offering."