SBS today launched a beta version of its catch-up service SBS on Demand on the latest model smart TVs to capitalise on the surge of viewers for the FIFA World Cup.

The platform offers free and unlimited access to programs and clips including documentaries, feature films, food shows, dramas, and news and current affairs.

Trevor Long, SBS manager, technology strategy and innovation, tells IF the broadcaster decided to launch a test version of the service on HbbTV-enabled TVs after Panasonic began selling the sets, which enable consumers to watch online content on large screens. Other manufacturers including Sony, LG and Samsung will enter that market in the coming weeks.

He estimates that between 500 and 800 hours of content are available on SBS on Demand at any one time. The other free-to-air broadcasters are yet to launch HbbTV services.

Long says the service is already accessible on more platforms than any of its rivals, on such devices as Android, Windows 8, Kindle Fire, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and 4, Sony and Samsung internet-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players, Panasonic and LG internet-enabled TVs, and Humax and Fetch TV set top boxes. The service attracts more than six million video views per month.

The FTA networks including SBS will launch their catch-up services on HbbTV-enabled TVs via Freeview Plus, also incorporating a new, 7-day onscreen electronic program guide, within the next month or so.

“This is the start of an exciting new era for free-to-air, “ says Long, pointing to future capabilities such as offering multiple camera angles of sporting events like the World Cup and additional stats info, and with SBS’s Thursday night food shows, airing more footage and fresh recipes. He likens HbbTV content to the extras available on DVDs of films and TV shows.

“We’re releasing the app in beta today to elicit feedback from audiences to help us make further enhancements and improvements to the product during the 2014 FIFA World Cup and ahead of the Tour de France next month,” says SBS chief digital officer Marshall Heald.

“Early adopters of this new technology will be able to provide us with valuable feedback to maximise the SBS on Demand experience.”

From today consumers with HbbTV-enabled televisions connected to the internet will see a red button on screen when they tune into SBS One, SBS2 and NITV.

Pressing the red button on the remote control will launch the new SBS On Demand application on the television screen and give viewers access to a vast range of content on offer from SBS.

The SBS sales team included a presentation on HbbTV’s capabilities as part of its upfront pitch to advertisers.

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