Hubbl’s free-to-air TV via the internet feature does come with some compromises

When Hubbl last week announced it could offer free-to-air without an antenna we all sat up to take notice – but there are some issues that customers need to know about.

This was all announced in the same week a Senate inquiry was held to ensure Australians still had exposure and access to free-to-air TV.

At its heart, the inquiry was centred around upcoming Prominence legislation that is looking to ensure TV manufacturers offer the same exposure to 9Now, 7Plus, Tenplay, ABC iView and SBS OnDemand as Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and other streaming services.

On the Hubbl side, the tentpole feature was the ability to watch FTA TV without an antenna.

It does this by stripping out the BVOD (broadcast video on demand) channel of the FTA catch up apps and presenting this in the TV guide alongside the other channels.

So instead of having to find the app, open it, scroll down to Live TV and press enter – it’s just there in the Hubbl guide.

But a few questions have been raised about potential issues with the BVOD stream.

The first issue is regions.

Hubbl says each FTA BVOD has a state-based feed with customers having to enter their postcode to ensure they are receiving the right feed.

But what’s to stop a Brisbane fan based in Sydney who wants to watch their teams live despite their location?

Wouldn’t the location of the exchange where the broadband connection comes from be a more reliable and tamperproof solution?

And is it our understanding is that SBS and 7 are national feeds only and viewers across Australia will receive the same feed.

The other issue with the BVOD streams on Hubbl are sport blackouts.

For example, Channel 7’s BVOD in 2024 won’t offer cricket or AFL because it doesn’t hold the digital rights.

Hubbl tells us users will be able to watch AFL on 7’s BVOD in 2025 but the cricket will not be seen on this stream.

Customers will either have to connect via an antenna and watch the terrestrial broadcast or subscribe to Kayo Sports.

What customers will need to do to enjoy all the BVOD streams from the FTA apps is to create an account for each one and sign in which will take far longer than just plugging in an antenna and tuning the stations.

At the Senate inquiry last week the aim was to make FTA services easy to find while keeping all the major sporting events free to watch for all Australians.

The inquiry heard that one major TV manufacturer was trying to leverage a 15 per cent revenue share and placement fee from SBS and that if it was not paid the TV station’s app would be removed from the launcher.

SBS managing director James Taylor said they didn’t pay and subsequently their app was even harder to find on that brand’s TVs.

Mr Taylor said another platform operator demanded 30 per cent of their revenue from the platform or risk being excluded.

A big selling point of the Hubbl platform is the Stack and Save option where customers can save up to $15 a month for bundling five services on their bill.

But not all apps will be involved in aggregated billing including Apple TV+, Prime Video, Paramount+ and Optus Sport who, according to Tech Guide’s sources, do not have carrier billing agreements with Hubbl.

Naturally Hubbl’s own Binge, Kayo Sport and Lifestyle will participate in the Stack and Save option.

Hubbl says any credit built up bundling services can go towards paying for those services that are not part of Stack and Save.

For example, a customer may subscribe to Kayo Sports, Binge and Netflix and get a $5 credit. They may choose to then subscribe to Disney+ or Apple TV+ because they are saving $5.

Hubbl will need to offer full transparency with the services that are included with Stack and Save and to clearly advise customers on the services that will not be taking part.

And as for a launch date for Hubbl – we are told that is still yet to be confirmed.

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