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What is Free-To-Air Television?

Free-To-Air television involves the transmission of video and audio media content without charging the viewer(s) for the distribution of the signal. Free-To-Air TV channels provide their content without requesting for a subscription. However, viewers might require some sort of equipment before accessing this channels. Conventionally, they provide free entertainment content for audiences.

Free-To-Air TV should not be confused with Free-To-View. Free-To-Air television services are unencrypted and do not mandate a subscription, meaning that whoever has the necessary devices can watch. On the other hand, free to view (FTV) TV services do not also require a subscription to watch but are digitally encrypted and requires a conditional-access module and viewing card.

Who is a Free-To-Air Television Channel Provider?

A Free-To-Air Television channel provider is one that distributes free media content to anyone with the right antenna or satellite dish. They offer commercial companies the opportunity to get their free content to viewers. In Nigeria, Sairtek is one of such providers. They broadcast and provide free to air channels to millions of viewers across Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Free To-Air tv channel providers, require payments from the channel owners before they broadcast those Free-To-Air channels. Though, the viewers do not have to pay. To recoup their losses, Free-To-Air Television channels which distribute media free of charge, have traditionally had to rely on advertisements to generate revenue. This has been their primary source of income.

Why a Free-To-Air Television channel?

  1. Free to Watch: As implied by the name, free-to-air channels are free to watch. There are no subscriptions needed so viewers do not have to break the bank to watch their favorite channels. However, like pay tv, viewers still need to set up the right equipment. They need an appropriate receiver/decoder and a dish set to the right frequency to gain access to the free channels. It is still more profitable for them in the long run.
  2. Wide Channel Variety: There is a wide diverse selection of free channels available to pick from. The large number of free channels available mean that viewers will not be left without what to watch. The different varieties include Religion, Sports, Reality TV, Live News, Music Videos, Movies, Documentaries and so much more. 

Independent of Location: Free-to-air television channels utilizing satellite solutions for broadcasting do not have to worry about geographical location. Anyone with the right equipment can tune in to a free to air channel from anywhere on earth. Even those in remote locations are not exempt. Channel owners can hence build and diversify their viewership.

Free-To-Air Television Selection

How Free To Air Channels Work

Free-to-air television channels depend on four major things to work. They depend on the satellites, the signals, the dish and the receiver. 

  1. Satellites: Free-To-Air television channels need a satellite for broadcasting. These satellites are free to access by having the right devices and frequency. They receive signals from broadcasting stations and reroute those signals back to the earth.
  2. Signals: The signals sent back by the satellites are unencrypted. It’s a raw format containing the video and audio for the free to air channel. Using a dish and configuring it to the right location will allow one to access the video and audio media.
  3. Dish: The dish is one of two equipment viewers need to intercept free to air television channel signals. The dish has a low-noise block downconverter (LNB) that it uses to strengthen the  received signal and send to the receiver.

Receiver: The second of two equipment needed by viewers, the receiver is the end component of the free-to-air satellite tv configuration. It will extract individual channels from the satellite signal. Free-to-air tv channels do not require a specific receiver but the receiver should be compatible with the encoding of the signal – usually MPEG-2 or MPEG-4.

Click Here for more information on how satellites in general work.

Free-To-Air Television Satellites

There are some particularly noteworthy satellites used by FTA channel providers. These satellites have FTA channels that viewers can tune into:

Eutelsat 7

Intelsat 7

Intelsat 20

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