ITV Regions Going HD on Freesat and Sky

All ITV regions will soon be available in HD (high definition) on the Sky and Freesat satellite platforms. The official launch of new regional HD service takes place on the Tuesday 20th October (2020).

This means a fully regionalised ITV HD service will soon be available to viewers in England, the Scottish Borders, and Wales. Until now, only some regions had a HD version of ITV on satellite.

As a result, ITV HD will move to the more prominent channel number 103 on HD compatible equipment.. On Freesat, ITV HD is currently on channel 111, whilst on Sky in regions with a HD feed ITV HD is on channel 176.

Viewers with older SD (standard definition) equipment will continue to find the SD version of ITV on 103.

ITV’s The Voice Resumes

Signing competition The Voice, one of many high profile shows to stop filming due to Covid-19, is making its return on the 3rd October (2020).

The entire series so far is being made available on catch-up service ITV Hub, with a special catch-up show to air ahead of the semi-final and final, later this month on ITV.

The semi-final and final will be pre-recorded in the coming weeks, and will feature a virtual audience.

Merit Ownership Change

It is being reported that the recently launched Merit has had its license transferred from ITV to Sky.

Under Freeview rules, channel operators cannot transfer or sell channel numbers. It appears that to get around this, ITV have created Merit in order to transfer the channel number to Sky.

Sky are planning on launching Sky Arts as a free to air channel, and Merit’s channel number could be used for the new Freeview version of the channel, possibly being combined within the bandwidth currently used by Sky owned challenge.

At this time, any potential development is simply speculation. Another scenario, given that Merit has focused on food, home, and gardening programmes, is that Sky may be planning on launching their own food or home related channel. Merit could end up forming the basis of this.

Although Merit launched on Freeview only, the channel has been broadcasting on satellite using CITV downtime, although did not join the Sky or Freesat EPG.

There are likely to be more developments in the Merit story.

Update: 23/08/2020. I’ve since learnt that Sky Arts is to take channel number 11, meaning Sky Pick would take 34 as this would be the highest Sky owned channel number. It is still unclear what will happen to Challenge.

Eh, a News Post on a Wednesday? Merit Change

I’m making a one off exception to the recently introduced news update schedule (i.e. new updates should occur on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays), as the Merit channel has thrown up a new development. The channel has moved to temporary multiplex COM7.

An onscreen message reveals the channel is back at 9pm, suggesting the originally reported broadcast hours of 9pm to midnight are in fact correct. The logo consists of orange text in a handwritten script font style, and does not follow the ITV corporate style, or feature the ITV logo.

I’m sure there will be more developments to this channel to report on in the near future.

New Merit Launch Date

ITV’s new channel Merit is now expected to launch at 8pm on Wednesday 29th July 2020, earlier than some expectations.

Details of the channel are still thin on the ground, but the channel is still expected to be a part time service. The 8pm launch time indicates that this is the regular start time, which is earlier than the 9pm to midnight timings previously reported.

Availability of the service beyond Freeview is still not known, although programmes should be available on the ITV Hub catch-up platform.

Merit Expected to Launch in September

Contrary to previous reports, ITV’s new channel Merit has not yet launched, and is now expected to launch in September, according to www.terrestrialtv.uk. A placeholder is currently broadcast on channel 34.

It is unclear if the channel will launch on other platforms, and little about the channel has been confirmed. There is a possibility the channel will be exclusive to Freeview, like CCXTV.

More details will be confirmed here when I receive them.

Merit Launch Triggers Reshuffle, Now 70s Returns

ITV are launching a new part time channel tomorrow (8th July), triggering a channel number reshuffle.

Merit will broadcast from 9pm to midnight on Freeview channel number 34. ITV3 +1, currently on channel 34, will move to channel 58,  in turn forcing ITV Be +1 down to channel 97. Both ITV3 +1 and ITV Be +1 are part time channels, which are likely to reduce hours to accommodate Merit.

The exact programme line-up is currently unknown, but Merit will specialise on cookery and gardening programmes. It is also unclear if the channel will join other platforms.

Additionally, Now 70s is returning to Freeview, still on channel 78, but coverage is limited to the Manchester area.

BBC to Resume Production

The BBC is to resume production of Top Gear and EastEnders, two of its popular entertainment shows. Both are expected to resume at the end of the month.

Strict social distancing measures will be in force, complying with current government guidelines. Crews will be limited, with cast members responsible for their own hair and make up.

Additionally, ITV panel show Loose Women has also resumed production. Following social distancing, there are only three panel members at the table. The remaining fourth member contributes via video link. For obvious reasons, there is no studio audience.

ITV4 Continues LaLiga Partnership

The UK rights for LaLiga football failed to sell, however ITV are continuing an existing partnership for the first 3 match days as an interim measure.

Athletic Bilbao v FC Barcelona will be shown tonight (Friday) on ITV4 at 8pm, with FC Barcelona v Real Betis (8pm on Sunday 25th August), and Villareal CF v Real Madrid (8pm on Sunday 1st September) to follow. Highlights programmes will follow each match day.

A last minute alteration to darts coverage on ITV4 has been made, with the darts to be shown either side of the football.

ITV4 is on all linear TV platforms, with additional HD versions on Sky and Virgin media. Coverage of the LaLiga matches will also be available on the ITV Hub on-demand platform.

Review: +1 Channels – Are they still needed?

On demand content access has improved significantly in recent years, so I thought it would be useful to evaluate if there is a point to keeping these channels.

+1 channels of the likes of ITV and Channel 4 were established to allow viewers to catch a show that they might have just missed the start of. They have historically also been used as placeholders, pending the launch of new channels. They can be found on all major TV platforms, including Freeview.

Subsequently, nearly all TV channels have developed an on demand platform. These allow viewers to catch up on missed programmes for between 7 and 30 days (sometimes longer) after they were first broadcast. Well known catch up services include BBC iPlayer and My5.

Despite this, many +1 channels still exist. For those with recorder boxes which can only record 2 programmes at one time, the +1 channels can assist with reducing scheduling conflicts. However, as programmes are often repeated several times, there are ways around such an issue without +1 channels.

With advances in 4G and 5G mobile data, catch up services are become more accessible to smartphones and tablets. Arguably, this further reduces the need for +1 channels, as TV programmes can be accessed from any location.

Ironically, Freeview frequencies are being reallocated to 5G. Therefore, many +1 channels are likely to have to make way to ensure all channels can continue to broadcast. This means, on Freeview at least, +1 channels are unlikely to stay much longer.

I can’t find a particular need for +1 channels, and while they can at times be useful, I would rather see the space occupied by these channels put to better use.