Freeview products now on sale, but was anyone paying attention?

To celebrate the release of the first compliant products, Freeview staged a media event yesterday at the Dick Smith store in Sydney’s CBD. Whilst Sony and LG leant their weight to the proceedings, a number of big brands were conspicuous by their absence.

With the first of Freeview’s latest television commercials airing this Sunday last, CEO Robin Parkes said the event was an effort to raise the profile of the concept, with the focus of the event intended to be the new products now on sale. On display at the Dick Smith store were LG, Sony, Topfield, TiVo and Beyonwiz. Not present at the conference, however, were Sharp, Samsung or Panasonic.

The new advertisement, which is designed to reinvigorate interest in free-to-air television, features classic moments from Australian and world television history, with each clip sporting the logo of the original broadcast network. At the end of this sequence, which includes the Royal Wedding, the Moon landing and John Aloisi’s decisive penalty, interested viewers are told to “Visit [their] local retailer” or the Freeview website.

Although this was marketed as a Freeview event, Dick Smith general manager Debra Singh confused guests by speaking at length about the new-look Dick Smith stores. Freeview was criticised last week for choosing a Dick Smith store for the event, as opposed to a neutral venue, so there were utterances of surprise when Singh began her welcome with a spiel about how good Dick Smith is.

“We have a new look, new brand and new people,” she said. “We are the ‘techxperts’, we have 356 stores and sold 38,000 set top boxes last quarter.”

During this effusive speech, one guest was overheard saying, “is this a Freeview event, or a Dick Smith event?”

Following this, Freeview chairman Kim Dalton addressed the media, saying that the group is currently “working with manufacturers and suppliers”. This may well be true, though throughout the event some subtle favouritism was noticeable. For example, despite Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp and Kogan all being listed as participating suppliers, only LG and Sony had their panels showcased at the event.

In another distraction, Appliance Retailer yesterday revealed that despite Beyonwiz products being on display at the Dick Smith store, they are not currently ranged by Dick Smith. Also, Robin Parkes went on record apologising to Harvey Norman for any upset caused by the venue choice.

Ultimately, this event was about raising publicity for the new Freeview-compliant products. Consumers in stores looking at televisions and set-top boxes will now be confronted with the following label schematic: no labels, both the Freeview and Government label, or one or other of the two. Already Harvey Norman and Bing Lee have vocalised their dissatisfaction with Freeview, will this be too confusing for the retailer and consumer?

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