Freeview viewers outside of the range of the full set of Freeview channels will soon be able to access some of the missing channels via IP-fallback.
The new functionality is available on Freeview Play TVs and boxes that support Channel List Management (CLM). These will be able to switch to an internet stream of the channel if it’s not available through an aerial. This will reduce the difference in the number of channel viewers can receive, depending where they live.
Over 100 channels are available to viewers who can receive their TV signal from a main transmitter. But viewers who receive their TV service from a relay transmitter are limited to around 20 channels, depending on where they are in the UK. Viewers in the Channel Islands are currently also limited to a handful of Freeview channels.
Under proposals from Freeview platform manager Digital UK, given the green light today, channels that are made available through a Freeview Play application will be eligible for IP-fallback. Freeview Play is Freeview’s hybrid terrestrial / online TV service, which includes apps from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and UKTV among others.
Some channels are not available from all transmitters. This includes ITVBe on Freeview channel 27. Under the new provisions, it could be made available to viewers outside of Freeview coverage, as ITV already provides a Freeview Play application. Viewers with a compatible device would be able to watch ITVBe on channel 27 through the internet instead. Similarly, ViacomCBS, which runs My5 on Freeview Play, will be able to offer 5*, 5 SELECT, 5USA and Paramount Network to all viewers.
Additional slots in the 300 channel range will be made available for additional channels delivered via the internet by broadcasters who have a Freeview Play application. This paves the way for the BBC to offer iPlayer-only channels, such as special pop-up channels for sports and music events, through the main Freeview channel list. The BBC Red Button has previously offered such coverage. But Freeview has never been able to offer all Red Button streams, due to capacity limitations.
Digital UK has insisted that IP-only channels must come through channel providers with a Freeview Play application, to ensure compatibility.
Existing streaming channels, above channel 260 on Freeview, are no longer widely supported by devices. Based on a decade-old technology, today’s decision aims to avoid another compatibility problem down the line.
Do all Freeview Play devices support IP-fallback and IP-only channels?
No. The new functionality is based on new standards added to Freeview Play devices in 2020. Even so, not all Freeview Play devices sold now will support the new features. It will become more widespread in the coming 18 months as new models reach the shops. The majority of Freeview Play devices around today will not support these features. Manufacturers are not planning to offer any upgrades. For users of these devices, Freeview reception will continue as if nothing has changed.
At the same, Freeview has also allowed channel operators to swap slots with each other. Digital UK will be publishing a rate card shortly, to cover the extra administrative costs. And some HD channels will be able to substitute their SD counterparts in the future. More details here…