New streaming service Freely is set to become the online successor to Freeview. It will allow viewers to stream all major TV channels without an aerial or satellite dish.
- The service will launch in 2024, but will require a next-generation smart TV.
- It will give viewers access to all the main public broadcaster’s channels in one place.
- Channels from third-parties will also be on-board.
- In addition, Freely will provide access to all the main broadcaster’s on-demand and catch up services
- It’s Public Service Media’s response to the growing number of pay IP-streaming services, including Sky Stream and Virgin Media Stream
Britain’s biggest broadcasters have confirmed the development of a new free TV service that will deliver live TV over broadband.
Viewers will be able to browse and watch live TV channels, plus on-demand content, delivered straight to their smart TV via the internet. Freely will be managed by Everyone TV (formerly Digital UK), the organisation behind Freeview and Freesat. Everyone TV is owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Paramount (via Channel 5).
The new service will provide millions of broadband-only homes with easy access to a single consistent experience for live free TV over IP. 4 million homes (about 15% of all homes) are now IP-only, according to latest figures.
What will the new Freely streaming service offer?
Viewers will be able to seamlessly browse channels through a modern and intuitive programme guide, and use innovative functionality designed to make it easier to find and explore new shows directly from live TV.
Freely will be built-in to the next generation of smart TVs on sale from next year.
Channels offered by Freely
It will feature a line-up of public service broadcaster and other free-to-air channels. It’s expected to carry most of the TV channels that are currently available on Freeview.
While the number of Freeview channels can vary depending on location, Freely will be able to offer all channels wherever there’s a suitable internet connection.
However, a full line-up of channels hasn’t been confirmed at this stage.
The broadcasters behind the project say the user experience will replicate the terrestrial TV experience. The aim is to build on the heritage and popularity of the Freeview TV platform.
▶ The current Freeview service, used by 16 million homes, will remain on air, but as decisions are made regarding the future use of terrestrial TV frequencies beyond 2030, Freely aims to become the natural successor for both Freeview and Freesat. The downside is that the service will require a paid-for internet connection, unlike previous free-to-air services, so issues regarding fast internet rollout, plus affordable internet connections need to be resolved so it can be truly universal.
Freely will help ensure the availability of PSB services into the future. It also aims to complement the new provisions for on demand and streaming prominence, set out in the draft Media Bill.
Jonathan Thompson, Everyone TV chief executive, says:
“We are delighted to be working with the public service broadcasters on the next phase of free TV’s evolution. This new development is a reflection of the fact that a growing number of UK viewers are watching content online, but still want easy access to the shared experience of live TV.
“Our aim is to ensure that all viewers have access to a free, aggregated live TV experience that champions British content and is delivered in a way that suits audience needs and preferences. Every one of us should be able to share in the best of British ideas and creativity on TV.”
What the broadcasters say
Following the announcement of Freely, all main broadcasters have issued statements:
Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC, says:
“Ensuring the universality of public-service television is sustained into the future is of paramount importance to the UK and all its public service broadcasters. We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration in helping viewers access our content, ensuring that, in a digital age, we deliver value for all audiences and that no one is left behind.”
Dame Carolyn McCall, CEO, ITV, says:
“As more and more UK households use internet-connected TVs, it’s critical that the public service broadcaster channels remain available and easy for them to find. This new collaboration enables the UK public to continue to get all of their favourite British TV channels, for free – just as Freeview did at the advent of digital TV. Alongside the important reforms set out in the draft Media Bill it will help PSBs to continue to thrive for years to come.”
Alex Mahon, CEO, Channel 4, says:
“Streaming TV is increasingly the new normal for audiences, particularly young viewers, so it has never been more important for trusted PSB content to be readily available to everyone, for free. We look forward to working closely with our PSB partners so that when the Media Bill’s prominence provisions become law, the technology to make Britain’s favourite TV shows easy to find will already be in place.”
Finally, Maria Kyriacou, President of Broadcast & Studios, International Markets at Paramount, noted:
“We know that British audiences continue to have a strong appetite for the high quality, relevant and impartial content provided by our UK public service broadcasters such as Channel 5. This new collaboration across the PSBs will ensure that, as these viewers continue to shift to IP enabled televisions, they continue to have an easy way to access the channels and content they know and love.”