What is Freeview? - The beginners guide to Free Satellite TV in New Zealand

By tonyhughes Hughes, in , posted: 30-Aug-2007 21:19

Here's a beginners guide to understanding Freeview, what it costs, and how to go about it, with the information you need to know, and precious few of the boring geeky details you dont care about.

A typical Freeview STB - many weird and wonderful brands exist, most of which have no pre-existing presence in New Zealand.

This guide does not cover all aspects of Freeview - just the basics to get up and running. It also is not intended to cover watching Freeview on a PC.

I invite retailers, wholesalers, installers, and interested parties to post information in the comments section, including your contact details/url should you wish. Please state your region to allow people to make informed decisions about who is worth contacting.

What is Freeview?

Freeview is free-to-air ('FTA') satellite television (DVB-S or Digital Video Broadcast - Satellite), and soon will include terrestrial (think normal TV signal) (DVB-T or Digital Video Broadcast - Terrestrial).

What channels will I get?

The current list of Freeview channels is here, and at the time of writing, includes the following:

From http://www.freeviewnz.tv:

TV ONE offers a broad range of programming including ONE NEWS & Current Affairs and ONE Sport as well as a full entertainment schedule that features both homegrown and international shows plus award-winning documentaries, drama and comedy.

TV2 focuses on both homegrown and international entertainment and delivers a strong line-up of comedies, drama, movies and local programming. TV2 caters primarily to a young and family orientated audience with an emphasis on providing entertainment and information to the young and young at heart.

TV3 operates a significant news and current affairs department, responsible for over 9 hours of peak programming weekly. Sport also plays an integral role in the schedule with TV3 broadcasting the 2007 Rugby World Cup live and exclusive. In regard to entertainment, TV3 is a young adult oriented network that's made its mark featuring crime drama, hit reality shows and New Zealand-produced programmes. TV3 is available in digital widescreen and free-to-air only on Freeview.

C4 is New Zealand's free-to-air music channel targeted at a 15-29 year old audience. C4's point of difference is its specialist music programmes, covering all genres, and its specialist hosts - who are authorities in their preferred genres. Music shows are supported by youth culture programming from MTV and other international networks. C4 is available in digital widescreen and free-to-air 24 hours a day only on Freeview.

It's the goal of Maori Television to play a major role in revitalising the Maori language and culture that is the birthright of every Maori and the heritage of every New Zealander. Maori Television screens a range of programmes that portray Maori from a Maori perspective. They broadcast news, sports, current affairs, general programmes produced in-house (most of these live to air) and original programmes made by independent Maori and non-Maori producers.

TVNZ 6, the first of TVNZ's two new digital channels, will feature advertising-free programming with between 50% and 70% local content. It is divided into three distinct services targeting preschoolers (TVNZ Kidzone, 6am – 4pm), families (TVNZ Family, 4pm – 8.30pm) and adult viewers (TVNZ Showcase, 8.30pm to closedown). Each service will offer its target audience a tailored mix of stimulating, informative and entertaining programming from New Zealand and overseas. TVNZ 6 begins broadcasting on Sunday 30 September.

TVNZ Sport Extra is the home of extended, commercial-free sports coverage on Freeview. It includes a feast of top international netball, soccer and motorsport. Full details and broadcast schedules can be found at tvnz.co.nz/sportextra

Stratos Television provides a unique schedule of the best of regional, ethnic and educational television programming from New Zealand and around the world. It also offers a full selection of the best international news services, current affairs programmes and documentaries from respected major public service broadcasters, in English and other languages. Triangle Stratos starts broadcasting early October.

Broadcasting 24 hours a day, Radio New Zealand National reaches almost every New Zealander. Its programme mix includes news and current affairs, documentaries and features, drama and music.

Radio New Zealand Concert is Radio New Zealand's fine music network. Music comprises 85% of air time. Much of this is classical, with additional specialist music programmes covering jazz, contemporary and world music.

So what do you need to get Freeview?

Well, if you have a Sky dish on your roof, all you need is a Freeview set-top-box ('STB'), from either a retailer like DSE, or a seller on Trademe. They all do a similar job - showing the channels, displaying the electronic-program-guide ('EPG'), which, just like a Sky Digital setup, will let you see a TV Guide onscreen, with the channels, time & day, the program names, and a description of the episode. The main differences between actual STBs will be around the amount and type of connections on the rear. This will cost you anywhere between $150 and $300, which, if you already have an unused Sky dish, should be all you need - plug it in and go...

What if I dont have a Sky dish?

You will need to buy a satellite dish. Once in the tens of thousands of dollars range, and needing to be many metres across, Freeview dishes are generally around 75cm across, and around $200 from a traditional retailer, or down to about $70 on Trademe.

You will need some ability and extra equipment to install and align a dish, and if you are not technical, this is the point at which you will want to engage an installer (Check Trademe, Yellowpages, the comments section on this article, or search/ask in the forums on Geekzone.co.nz.

How does it plug into my TV?

Here is the back of a basic cheap 'n cheerful Freeview STB:

The cable that comes from the dish screws onto the LNB-IN, and then the yellow+red+white RCA sockets can be connected to any modern TV with a cable that should be supplied with your STB, or can be bought from any electronics retailer for about $10. Easy huh?

Better picture quality and other benefits may be obtained by using higher grade connections, if such connections are present on both your STB and your TV (e.g. S-Video etc).

The STB itself is usually a little smaller than a Sky decoder, and the current generation of STBs are still actually quite ugly (but very functional).

Can I record Freeview?

Freeview STBs are like standard SKY Digital boxes, and dont offer any recording functionality. Look out in the near future for DVD recorders with Freeview tuners built in. You can plug a Freeview decoder into a DVD Recorder, but you will have to program both devices - the DVD Recorder to record the Freeview signal at the right time, and the Freeview box to switch to the right channel. Its tedious, but do-able.

How much does it cost?

Without a Sky dish on your roof, expect to pay around $300 - $700 to get up and running - this will vary widely depending on whether you pay someone to install for you. If you have an unused Sky dish, then just the cost of the STB (as cheap as $150 or so). There are no connection costs, subscriptions, or bills with Freeview.

Can I get it in my area?

Unless you live in a cave, or behind the wrong big hill, then pretty much everyone in New Zealand can get Freeview!


All in all, Freeview is a great alternative to Sky Digital, if the channel lineup suits your needs, and you simply want a good quality signal and/or EPG capability. No ongoing costs, and simple to get going.

On the way is the terrestrial version, which will be delivered by typical transmitter/aerial combos. Its still digital though, and may offer even more content, with cheaper setup costs, and relatively straightforward self-installation options.

Check out the Freeview discussions on the Geekzone forums...

More information

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Comment by Alf Murphy, on 30-Aug-2007 23:01

AV1.CO.NZ Limited. Freeview accredited retailer. National installation service. Book a technician online or Freephone 0800 AV1 AV1.

Comment by wiredr, on 31-Aug-2007 05:59

the comment reprinted from  Alf Murphy  blog ,
Free view STBs are like standard SKY Digital boxes, and don't offer any recording functionality. Look out in the near future for DVD recorders with Free view tuners built in.
what a load of twaddle, i am currently using a twin tuner 160gb hdd set top box , dvd recorders for tv are old hat and hdd is the way of the future.the problem is that free view have made and are still making decisions which are stifling free view ie only accrediting two stb,s, restricting who can watch future new channels, we should be a tech leader not copying what other providers have already done overseas,
free view tv is a bit like the v8 car racing Auckland hid behind the red tape and lost it Hamilton on the other hand just got on with the job, of the 40,000 set top boxes out there only 11,500 are accredited boxes this certainly does not show the free view consortium as being credible users of tax payers money.

Comment by sbiddle, on 31-Aug-2007 08:36

Just remember that Freeview is not in competition with Sky like many media seem to think.

The Freeview platform is the future of TV in New Zealand with a combination of DVB-S (satellite) and DVB-T (terrestrial) to replace the existing analogue TV broadcasts in NZ. TV's will hit the market here next year with built in DVB-T tuners and expect to see within 12-18 months that every flatscreen TV sold in NZ will have a built in Freeview DVB-T tuner so there will be no need for a user to buy a STB. Eventually our existing analogue TV transmissions will be shut down and the Freeview platform using DVB-T and DVB-S will become the norm.

Author's note by tonyhughes, on 31-Aug-2007 09:58

wiredr: load of twaddle?

These HDD DVRs with DVB are not readily available to Joe Consumer in NZ as of yet. So for a non-techo 'beginner' who doesnt live on the internet and have some confidence around importing gear or getting special orders, its a hard pill to swallow.

As I stated - its a general guide for beginners, looking at the straightforward easy options.

Comment by Bruce Metelerkamp, on 7-Sep-2007 23:12

So I bet there will be a surge in people getting Sky - but just for one month (to get the sattelite dish installed) - or is there some way Sky stops this kind of exploitation!?!?

Comment by free satellite tv, on 29-Sep-2007 07:46

New Zealand has SKY? I thought that was only in England.

Comment by drift, on 29-Sep-2007 23:51

freeview boxes that record to hard drive are readily available in NZ.
http://www.freeviewshop.co.nz/ has a couple

Comment by frosty, on 4-Oct-2007 23:59

Hi We are moving from UK to NZ in August 2008. Will our PAL TV's work over in NZ and will our freeview box (DVR)work?

Comment by thebeepsociety, on 5-Oct-2007 13:46

Bruce (and others), check out http://www.primetv.co.nz/default.asp?t=5, Sky will install a dish for you "just for Prime" for $145 which I found pretty sweet. We weren't able to get UHF reception of Prime so had to go for the dish, not sure if you can still ask them to install a dish when you already get Prime. Anyway after Sky guy left I hooked up Freeview box which wasn't hard, thanks for this page Tony!

Comment by dwp, on 18-Oct-2007 17:59


Your UK TV *may* work in NZ, but check before you ship. Although both are on the PAL system, they are on different versions of PAL. NZ uses PAL B/G, the UK uses PAL-I. When I looked at the specs of my three UK-bought TVs (all Philips, including one that's 10 years old), I found that only two supported B/G. But now that I'm here, I'm finding that tuning those two is a little challenging - I can do it manually, but it's fiddly. Interestingly, my UK TVs allows me to change a country setting, and I just discovered that Austria also uses B/G, so that's the next thing to try.

On the Freeview front, I was advised by the maker of my UK Freeview PVR/DVR, Topfield, that it wouldn't work here, and the reading I've done since arriving confirms that. The standard that NZ is using for terrestrial digital TV (DVBt) is different to the UK Freeview, since it's being designed to support HD from launch (March 2008), whereas the UK system doesn't. In technical terms, the UK system supports MPEG2, while the NZ system will support MPEG4. I know there is talk of the UK moving to MPEG4 to allow HD support, but not in the near future.

I don't know what PVRs will be available in March for digital terrestrial, but I do know that you can buy digital satellite PVRs now that work with the satellite version of Freeview , even though it's not certified by Freeview in NZ and it costs a bomb. Others may know more about how well this works. I've just bought a receiver only (arriving tomorrow...); I'll save my money until March and see what is available then. If I'm going to spend a bomb on a Freeview receiver, I'll spend it on one that is HD-ready (the satellite version of Freeview isn't and won't be, from what I understand).

Oh, and when you move, bring lots of multiplugs/power boards and UK-NZ adapters. Adapters are expensive here, and using multiplugs means you don't need to change the plugs on quite so many cables, at least not at first :-)

Comment by paul G, on 2-Nov-2007 17:40

Hi. Is the new HD service starting in March, both Satellite and Terrestial or just Terrestial?

Comment by mobsta, on 7-Nov-2007 12:18

Gidday. When they say terrestial - does this mean via phone line? or by (non-dish) aerial? Thanks

Comment by Chasse, on 10-Nov-2007 21:49

I don't see what all the fuss is about as it is adding a sat dish will only mean that you can see the same old twadle that you can now. I would like to see some of the U.S providers in NZ like NBC and Foxtel then we might get some decent channels and some competition but in this banjo playing backwater theres more chance of flying roast pig playing an electric guitar over a frozen hell.

Author's note by tonyhughes, on 11-Nov-2007 10:54

I think you have completely missed the point, that many tens of thousands of New Zealanders have been stuck with poor reception of two or three channels only. Sure, Freeview might not be a big deal to an Auck/Wlgtn/ChCh city dweller with perfect FTA reception and heaps of channels, but for Joe Rural and his family, this is a huge leap.

Also, Freeview Satellite is only an in-fill service, the real cherry will be DVB-T

Comment by Rodney ward, on 14-Dec-2007 14:32

I have been getting STB from Satlink. Pretuned and about $100 reday to go with plugs remotes etc.. This accreditation of "certified" sellers etc is a crock. Just another way the poor old consumer gets ripped. If you are looking for units for yourself or retail then have a look at www.satlinknz.co.nz. Could be worthwhile to you. :)

Comment by Mac2008, on 29-Feb-2008 01:47


Nice page, very well written.

However I must correct you on one thing. Satellite PVRs (or DVRs as some people call them) have been readily available in NZ for over 5 years. The Topfield TF4000PVR was possibly the first of it's kind here, and it was expensive, but could easily be purchased online or at some shops.

Since then the models have kept rolling in - TF5000PVR, TF5010PVR, TF6000PVR, TF6000PVRe and then this year there is the TF6000PVR ES which is cheaper with more features like HDMI with upscaling output to 1080i, 320gig HDD, LAN ethernet connection.

You can keep track of these at www.hooktech.co.nz (the importer, they have a where to buy page) if you check the news section they have kept the old releases of the PVRs when they updated the website just recently.

Comment by James Sparks, on 13-Dec-2008 01:16

Hi guys, Freeview is going to be released in 2009 and not many people know much about it at all. If you want to know what is freeview for Australia, you should check out www.Nudgebucket.com 's website. Go To http://www.nudgebucket.com/Blog/tabid/55/Category/FreeView/Default.aspx?xmid=17

Comment by shayne, on 8-Feb-2009 17:24

hi, i have a hills brand box and a sky satellite dish hooked up. however the box is not picking up the satellite. any suggestions??

Comment by Anna, on 20-Aug-2009 12:36

Hi there. i have a satellite dish BUT i want the freeview for tv in my room. there are no cords leading from the satellite dish to my room tho only upstairs in the lounge. how do i go about setting up freeview? thanks :)

Comment by Louise, on 8-Sep-2009 19:42

Hi Need help. I have a HD TV with built in freeview tuner. I have moved into a new house and have only got a sky dish and aerial. I have been told that because my TV is HD that I will need a UHF aerial. Is this true and if not how do I set up my TV as it is saying 'no signal' at the moment?

Comment by Hook Ups, on 14-Dec-2011 17:29

Hook Ups Freeview Installations Wellington http://www.hookups.co.nz/freeview-installation/ Hook Ups Freeview Shop http://www.hookups.co.nz/freeview-uhf-tv-aerials/ 0508 Hook Ups

Comment by STolmie, on 5-Sep-2012 16:17

I'm still wondering who came up with the term freeview?? Its was free, now I have to spend hundreds of dollars on more black boxes that will give the same channels?? Possibly better picture, I had freeview in the uk and it had a few glitches where you would be happily watching a movie then suddenly -no signal-. Happened alot. I have a Sky dish which I pay sky to watch tv in the livingroom, now I have a tv in thebedroom where I have to buy a box to watch the normal tv, I dont have a cable from the dish, dont know if that will work, didnt see that in your blog, will have to find/buy an ariel, run/buy a cable from it to the plastic "free"view box to run to my little tv. Im all excited as you can tell.

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