A lucky few Freeview users will for the first time be able to access every regular BBC channel in HD via a new IP add-on to Freeview.
This includes BBC News HD, which was removed last year due to a reduction in capacity available to broadcasters after a decision to allocate more of the airwaves to 5G services.
The BBC is making this possible by launching five of its HD channels as IP channels on Freeview. The IP channels will complement, not replace, the existing BBC digital channels broadcast over the air to your aerial.
The service launches on Monday 24th July.
At launch, only a relatively small number of Freeview Play devices will support the new feature. The BBC will initially only offer those HD channels that are either not available UK wide or not at all on Freeview. They are BBC Three HD (which isn’t available over the air in Scotland and Wales), BBC Scotland HD, BBC Alba HD, BBC News HD and BBC Parliament HD. BBC RB1 isn’t counted as a regular channel – instead Freeview Play users can already stream extra red button content through the iPlayer.
The BBC IP channels will broadcast in a specially reserved block of Freeview channels:
- 301 BBC Three HD
- 302 BBC Scotland HD
- 303 BBC Alba HD
- 501 BBC News HD
- 502 BBC Parliament HD
HD versions of BBC One, Two, Four, CBeebies and CBBC will continue to be broadcast over the air on their normal channel numbers.
Which devices are compatible with this new feature?
This is exclusive to newer Freeview Play TVs.
TVs made before 2020, as well as Samsung and Sony TVs won’t have access.
Otherwise, look for the Freeview Play device ID for your TV on channel 100.
Devices with the following Freeview Play IDs will work from the outset. In general, these are most new LG (2022/23) and Hisense TVs.
If any of above IDs matches your TV, ensure your TV is connected. You may need to retune. If your internet goes down, you’ll lose the channels and may need to retune again when your connection is back to restore them.
Devices with the following Freeview Play IDs will get a software update later in the year:
Other questions about the new BBC IP channel feature.
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My TV supports the BBC HD/SD swap, does this mean the IP channels will work on my TV?
Not necessarily. These are two different features and not all TVs that support the HD/SD swap will support this latest feature.
My Freeview TV can already access streaming channels, so why aren’t the BBC channels supported?
Existing streaming channels rely on HbbTV portals (MHEG-IC on older devices), broadcast over the air, which direct your receiver to the online stream.
The BBC’s IP channels work differently. They aren’t accessed via an HbbTV portal. There is nothing broadcast over the air, not even the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide). Rather, compatible devices need to receive online instructions that tell them where to look for the streams and which channel number to assign them to. Full programme listings are broadcast via the internet.
As this is an entirely new way of delivering Freeview services, only a small number of compatible devices will support the feature.
Does this means that some channels will be duplicated?
Viewers in England and Northern Ireland with compatible devices may find BBC Three HD on channel 23 and 107 (broadcast over the air) as well as on channel 301 (broadcast via the internet). BBC Three SD will appear on 613.
Can I still benefit from these channels in HD even if I don’t have a compatible device?
Yes, providing your TV supports the BBC iPlayer, you can live stream every BBC channel in HD, as long as your internet connection supports the speeds required for HD streams (5 Mbps). You just won’t see these streams on your main channel list.
Are the new BBC IP channels recordable?
No. You’ll need to record the regular broadcast channels. However, if you miss a programme, most are available on catch-up through the iPlayer.
Do the BBC IP channels carry subtitles?
Yes. When selecting these channels, your TV will open the BBC iPlayer and you can turn on subtitles using the regular iPlayer controls.
Will I need to register to watch these channels?
As they are delivered through the BBC iPlayer, you’ll need to be signed in with your BBC account.
Going forward, RXTV will differentiate the two types of streaming channel available on Freeview. We’ll use the terms “HbbTV/MHEG-IC streaming channel” for those services between channel 260 and 299 and “IP-channels” for those that launch between channel 300 and 554 and 556 to 599.