RTÉ-owned television service Saorview will be available via a broadband-connected set-top box from later this year under a new partnership between RTÉ and UK television platform Freesat.
The new Saorview Connect service will make on-demand content available alongside the nine Saorview channels, while its set-top boxes will have greater functionality than the current generation of Saorview boxes and will bring the service more in line with pay-TV platforms.
The new features will include a facility to catch up on missed programmes by scrolling back through the electronic programme guide, as well as a remote recording function.
Saorview, which is operated by RTÉ subsidiary 2rn, was launched in 2011 as a digital terrestrial television service to replace the analogue television signal. The free-to-air channels included on it can be accessed by connecting a Saorview-approved set or set-top box to an aerial.
The Saorview Connect service, which avails of a Freesat technology called Metaphor, "will offer viewers a richer experience", said RTÉ director-general Noel Curran. Saorview has "come a long way since digital switchover", he added.
Some 43 per cent of all households with television sets, or 676,000 homes, have Saorview, according to the latest Nielsen figures. Some 186,000 of these homes use it as their only means of accessing television.
The platform currently carries nine channels: RTÉ One HD, RTÉ 2 HD, TV3, TG4, 3e, UTV Ireland, RTÉ News Now, RTÉ jr (until 7pm) and RTÉ One +1 (after 7pm). RTÉ's chief technology officer Richard Waghorn recently said Saorview was "having conversations" with broadcasters about adding more channels.
The Oireachtas TV channel, TV3 HD and TV3 +1 are possible future additions to the service.