Freely’s Big Reveal: Reshaping Freeview And Freesat

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Freely, the broadband-based replacement for Freeview and Freesat, is finally launching later this year – and this week, some new details were finally revealed about the service – including its brand new electronic guide.

The eagerly anticipated broadband-based service, spearheaded by Everyone TV (the body behind Freeview and Freesat) and set to be embedded in the next generation of smart TVs and set-top boxes, is not just another addition to the existing digital television landscape.

Instead, it heralds a significant shift, particularly in how electronic programme guides (EPGs) will function compared to those of Freeview and Freesat, with a brand new system for channel numbering.

For example – certain channels will get better channel numbers on Freely, if they’re already popular on Freeview.

It’s worth mentioning that Freeview and Freesat aren’t going anywhere for now – and Freely will live alongside those two options in the coming years.

In June 2023, Everyone TV embarked on an important venture, consulting on a Logical Channel Number (LCN) Policy for Freely.

This week, they have released a statement detailing the outcomes of this consultation, providing insights into the responses received and the pivotal decisions made.

Woman watching TV remote

This statement is more than just a summary of feedback – it’s a window into the future of Freely, revealing how it will transform the way we navigate and enjoy television.

What Is Freely?

Freely, which was announced in September 2023, represents a major change in the evolution of UK television, merging the traditional broadcasting format with the convenience and flexibility of modern streaming TV.

Developed by Everyone TV (previously known as Digital UK, the company behind both Freeview and Freesat), Freely is a collaborative effort involving the UK’s major broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5.

Unlike Freeview and Freesat, which primarily rely on aerial and satellite signals, Freely combines these traditional methods with broadband to provide a more comprehensive range of viewing options.

This means that alongside standard broadcast channels, viewers can also access a variety of IP-delivered channels once their Freely-compatible devices are connected to the internet.

Freely has been designed to ensure both backwards and forward compatibility. Freely devices will operate like a standard DTT (aerial-based) device if
only connected to DTT, or like a Freesat device if just connected to DSat (with their respective Freeview and Freesat EPGs).

But once connected to the internet, Freely devices will deliver IP channels alongside channels that come over-the-air (like the Freeview and Freesat channels), all of which would be accessed via the new unitary EPG.

However, At launch (later this year), Freely will only be supported on “next-gen” Smart TVs – with Hisense recently named as the first partner to manufacture a Freely TV (Update: Vestel was later named as the second Freely partner)

Hisense TVs 2014
Photo: Deposit Photos – Kobby Dagan

This means that, at least for the time being, older Freeview TVs, as well as older Freeview set-top boxes, will not support Freely.

This week, Everyone TV did state that Freely set-top boxes will be available at some point, but we don’t know when exactly – and which boxes.

Furthermore, Everyone TV stated that Freesat TVs and set-top boxes will NOT be supported at launch – with the intention that satellite (DSat) compatibility will follow “at a later stage.”

It’s worth pointing out that Freely will be a brand new – and separate – television platform, living alongside Freeview and Freesat. Freely TVs will support over-the-air digital terrestrial channels, but those won’t be Freeview channels, they will be Freely DTT channels.

Whether that distinction has any real-life implications (a different set of channels between Freely and Freeview, for example) – remains to be seen.

What Sets Freely Apart: A Deep Dive into the New EPG

One of the key changes, discussed in this week’s statement, relates to the evolution of the Freely EPG.

The EPG is the heart of your TV viewing experience – it’s the menu that lets you browse channels and select programmes to watch. But in the age of streaming and on-demand content, the traditional EPG is set for a major overhaul.

Freeview Guide Moochi
The Freeview EPG

Freely’s EPG, and its channel numbering, will be fundamentally different from the current Freeview and Freesat EPGs.

Freeview and Freesat both have their unique listings and Logical Channel Number (LCN) policies. They differ in terms of genre categories used and the order of channels within each genre.

Unlike Freeview and Freesat, each with its own LCN policies, Freely introduces a bespoke LCN system designed for its hybrid nature.

The newly published policy categorises channels into specific TV Genre Categories:

  • Entertainment
  • News
  • Children’s
  • Music
  • Shopping
  • Faith & International
  • Adult
  • Radio

The approach is to balance variety with accessibility, aiming for more categories than Freeview but fewer than Freesat.

Prioritising Public Service Channels

As with Freeview and Freesat, Freely’s EPG will distinctly prioritise the public service channels.

The EPG will designate the top five slots in the Entertainment Genre Category exclusively for major public service channels, a move that ensures their continued prominence and easy accessibility for viewers.

These slots are allocated to the main channels of the UK’s leading public service broadcasters: BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4, and Channel 5.

In specific regions like Wales, S4C is given a priority slot, highlighting Freely’s consideration for regional broadcasting needs and preferences.

LCNEnglandWalesScotlandN. Ireland
4Channel 4S4CChannel 4Channel 4
5Channel 5Channel 5Channel 5Channel 5
6Allocated according to reach and pairing
7Allocated according to reach and pairing
8Local TVChannel 4BBC Alba/Scotland*Local TV
9Local TVLocal TVLocal TVLocal TV
10BBC Three*BBC Three*BBC Three*BBC Three*
11BBC Four*BBC Four*BBC Four*BBC Four*
12BBC Scotland/Alba*   
*The BBC may swap its channels within the LCNs assigned to it.

Popularity-Based Channel Organisation

Freely’s approach to organising channels in its EPG, beyond the prioritised public service channels, hinges on a unique popularity-based system.

This method uses specific metrics to determine a channel’s popularity, ensuring that the most viewed content is easily accessible to viewers.

For channels already existing on Freeview, Freely utilises average weekly five-minute reach as the key measure of popularity.

Freeview’s EPG

This metric, calculated using a full year of data, effectively gauges how many viewers tune into a channel for at least five minutes on average each week.

The channels with higher reach figures will be positioned more prominently in the EPG, reflecting their popularity among viewers.

For brand new IP-only channels, Freely has developed a distinct approach at launch.

These channels, which do not have a presence on Freeview / Freesat and are not measured by traditional metrics like BARB, are initially ranked and allocated Local Channel Numbers (LCNs) after existing DTT channels.

Freely plans to offer LCNs to IP-only channel providers in pairs, based on their existing channel positions or, for those without existing channels, on a first-come, first-served basis. This system is designed to ensure a fair and orderly introduction of new channels into the EPG.

This popularity-based system for channel organisation reflects means existing – and, in particular – currently popular channels will have an advantage on Freely – at least when it comes to channel numbering.

Couple watching smart TV in living room 1200
Illustrative Photo

In response to June’s consultation, UKTV raised concerns about the potential for Free Ad-Supported Streaming (FAST) channels to overwhelm the EPG, suggesting that better-funded channels with more original content might be lost in a crowded Entertainment genre.

In response, Everyone TV reiterates its commitment to being technology-neutral and not making value judgments based on technology, ensuring a fair and equitable platform for all channels.

However, Freely’s approval process for IP-delivered channels will include a set of common technical and regulatory standards, with requirements for a minimum of six broadcast hours.

This approach aims to maintain a high standard of service quality across the platform.

Addressing Concerns and Complaints about Freely

As Freely prepares for its 2024 launch, Everyone TV has also acknowledged and addressed various concerns and feedback from industry experts and viewers.

Many respondents have shared their visions for what a next-generation platform like Freely should offer. Key suggestions included:

Enhanced App Integration: A call for greater use of apps and the integration of linear TV channels with these apps.

Customisation and Personalisation: Respondents expressed a desire for customisable and personalised interfaces, including advanced search and discovery features, using filters and metadata.

Personalised Recommendations: There’s a demand for a system that learns viewer preferences and suggests content accordingly.

Cross-Platform Accessibility: Suggestions included having a dedicated app for Freely on mobile devices and other TV platforms, such as Apple TV, to ensure broader access (as it stands, Freely will only be available as a standalone platform on supported TVs and set-top boxes, and not as an app on other devices – at least for now).

Freeview Play smartphone and tablet 800
Freeview Play App

The second category of feedback mainly comes from viewers concerned about the transition to broadband-based delivery, as opposed to aerials and satellites:

Retention of Freeview and Freesat Services: Viewers expressed worries about potentially losing their existing aerial-based and satellite-based services, which they are content with.

Accessibility and Affordability Issues: Concerns were raised about certain groups, like the elderly, those in rural areas, and less wealthy individuals, not having access to or being able to afford fast internet services and new equipment.

Network Capacity: Doubts about IP networks’ ability to handle additional traffic without issues like buffering were mentioned.

Freely’s Response

While acknowledging that the transition to IP delivery raises important policy issues, Everyone TV has clarified that these are outside the scope of the current consultation.

However, they stress that:

For IP-Accessible Viewers: Freely aims to offer a richer experience alongside existing platforms.

For Non-Internet Users: A Freely device connected to an aerial will continue to function as a DTT (with aerial-based channels) device, and the same goes for Freesat devices, which will continue to work – therefore, at least for the time being, Freely will live alongside the two existing services.

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30 thoughts on “Freely’s Big Reveal: Reshaping Freeview And Freesat”

  1. I have just terminated my Sky Q contract and posted the unit back.
    I’ve got an Amazon Firestick and an Apple TV box, with several apps installed, but it’s a faff switching to them to watch things.
    My Toshiba TV is better than I thought it was, as you can go back in time on the planner and it’ll switch to the streaming service (eg. BBC iPlayer, itvX) to play the content, but does take time to do the change. I also found it’s got a satellite input socket, but my Sky Q LNB won’t be compatible.
    However, none of my units have a record function, which I did find handy for collecting a series to binge-watch and (of course) skipping over the ads; I just mute the sound in the ads now!
    I’ve been looking at the Freesat receivers, but they are a couple of years old now and aren’t cheap; I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea to invest in one if they’re going to be obsolete inside a year.
    What I’d like is something which unifies my satellite, aerial, and internet services and lets me record (and skip over the ads in recordings).
    OTOH, when the weather gets better, I may just go with my original aspiration to stop watching TV and get a life!
    My TV licence runs to the end of October, so I may do away with the thing then.

    • “What I’d like is something which unifies my satellite, aerial, and internet services and lets me record (and skip over the ads in recordings).
      OTOH, when the weather gets better, I may just go with my original aspiration to stop watching TV and get a life!”

      Yes, that’s my ideal unit as well. Any manufacturer that comes up with such a unit could make a killing. But I can’t lose the idea that killing off the ad skipping is something being directed from on high (the TV companies) and there will be something in the small print to preclude such devices. Maybe Ofcom could take a look – but as it’s something in the interests of the viewer, I doubt they would be interested.

      And, like your ambition, in June I shall be taking my caravan into a field far from anywhere and communing with nature for a whole month.

  2. Clearly the ad financed channels are promoting a way of preventing people skipping over ads. The days of the recording box with skip facility are numbered.

  3. EE TV are offering the Pro box, a YouView box with either all the terrestrial broadcast channels available from the user’s aerial, or a subset of Freeview channels delivered over the internet (IP Mode). Plus all the Sky channels offered by Now, and a further selection of sports channels, all delivered over IP. All of which you can record, 4 simultaneously in broadcast mode, or two in IP Mode,

    Alternatively, you can have an EE TV-branded Apple TV Box, offering all of the above, but IP Mode only, no aerial-derived channels. And non-recordable.

    Both available via tiered subscription models, depending on which bundle(s) of channels you take.

    EE-was-BT are staking quite a bit on the Apple option not bombing here because people can’t record.

    Freely is going to stand in the same position vis-a-vis these subscription IP offerings as Freeview does vis-a-vis the subscription broadcast BT/EE offering.

    And I do expect Freely is going to have a recordable option.

    I wonder if Freely is going to be multicast? This is something that allows EE/BT to put out one stream for each live IP channel, instead of an individual stream for each user like On Demand has to be, for an enormous saving in bandwidth, but routers need to be pretty agile to handle it. EE/BT can keep a tight grip on this by specifying the router that has to be used, but Freely won’t be able to do that.

  4. I think it’s good that this article is generating such interest but guys let’s not forget you can already watch live TV channels albeit major channels ie BBC 1, 2 etc. ITV 1, 2 etc and a few others by using their associated Internet players, via the Internet on various devices mobile phones, tablets and tv’s etc. which obviously some don’t have either an aerial or dish connection. My understanding having read the article Freely is more about the EPG being more customised for individual users, and offering service providers mode prominence depending on the number of hours broadcast and the number of viewers watching.

  5. Nowhere in any of articles and info regarding Freely is there any mention of anticipated costs.
    I currently have a Pioneer TV which is not a smart tv and a Freesat Humax set top box connected to the internet and satellite dish.

    My Freesat box already needs to be updated and I am reluctant to buy a new TV as the picture quality is better than most up to date TVs.

    What should I do? The ability to record what I want and on replay fast forward through the ads is a real bonus. Reading between the lines it would appear that these features will be lost. Am I right?

    Roger Harris

    • As I understand the situation apart from normal costs ie aerial or dish TV and maybe a box to record channels then Freely is going to be an add on service that primarily will only be available if you purchase a Hisense TV. Everyone TV the owners of Freely are committed to providing a quality service regardless of location or income that’s my understanding.

  6. I can’t help but notice the comments like ” when is this coming to freesat or can I record a program ” my understanding is the service is Internet based so is not specific to any linear service either freeview or freesat you won’t need an aerial or a dish. I would be interested to know if this will both have the ability to view not only live TV but some sort of catchup service that you can watch from the beginning having missed the start or at a time suitable to you a bit like netflix say thus no need to record and with all the repeated tv as well. This would be a truly flexible service

    • The article says Freely is being tide firstly to Freeview only and then Freesat later.

      To maintain existing compatibility, there won’t be Freely only TVs and STBs.

      Like today many TVs are both Freeview and Freesat compatible.

      • I read that freely will only be available with Hisense tv’s my question therefore is will the TV need to be connected to the aerial ie Freeview and the internet for the freely service to work ?

        • I would imagine Freely wil work without an aerial or dish. I can’t think why an IP service would need an aerial or dish to function.

          I understood Freely will have the current Freeview channels too but this article infers Freely will only be used for new channels. In which case you would need an aerial or dish t get all channels.

          Which is what you’re asking I guess.

          I think what it means is:

          1. Freely does not require an aerial or dish to be fully functional.

          2. But in order to maintain backwards compatibility devices will be sold with both Freeview/Freesat support and Freely support.

          You’re probably not intended to use both Freeview/Freesat and Freely. It’s either/or.

          This is because in the short term people will just want to carry on using what they’re currently using.

          Like today many TVs are both Freeview and Freesat compatible.

          • Not all TV’s are dual tuner and the number with Freesat built in is limited. The reason I ask the question is I could understand the Hisense TV having to be plugged into an aerial is so say you enter your UK postcode to receive your local services. That said, my bet would be that some smart tech guy with his jailbroken firestick and vpn, wether he in the Alaskan backwoods or the Australian outback could be watching BBC question time within hours of the service going live.

  7. The key is recording. Unless Freely offers the ability to record, fast forward through adverts, etc, then it won’t be a success. My guess is that the TV companies are paying for this and will veto this, just like Sky with Glass and Stream. Sky’s alternative, apart from having to be paid for, is useless.

    • Agreed.

      EETV’s IP based Freeview STB let’s you record.

      But like you say Sky Stream, Virgin Media Stream and the Talktalk Hub don’t.

      I’m hoping, expecting the likes of Humax already have a Freely PVR in the works.

      I expect at launch ot will just be TVs but given how most IP based Freeview services don’t let you record today, it’s concerning PVRs may not be offered.

      Humax has a long history of releasing Freeview and Freesat PVRs though so I’d be surprised if you can’t buy one.

    • Here’s a bit of info for you I have a Manhattan T3-R connected to an high speed 150Mbps Broad band service if I go to feeview channel 270 ie True Crime which is an Internet provided service and try and record it I’m given a prompt advising this service is unavailable, this means at present Internet provided channels cannot be recorded, at least not in their present form so as I see it yes being able to record Freely may be an issue in the future.

  8. Any new freesat recorders coming? I keep trying to catch up with the internet players then get the something went wrong message retry..and it doesn’t restart or go right back to the start, try to fast forward and it breaks again.

  9. Does this mean the Freeview channels aren’t going to be available as IP channels?

    Freesat has more HD channels than Freeview. It would be nice if this was rectified with Freely.

    My other concern is recording. Whilst EETV’s IP based Freeview STB let’s you record.

    Sly Stream, Virgin Media Stream and the Talktalk Hub don’t.

    I’m hoping, expecting the likes of Humax already have a Freely PVR in the works.


    • If you currently have a freeview play recorder box then yes when plugged in to an airel. But not on IPTV Channels. Like Pluto Channels. From start of it but say 2040. Normal freeview and Freesat would of stopped by then. Only freely would be around in 2040. But for time beings it’s going to exist alongside them. It’s like pay tv Sky Q live alongside Sky Glass eventually Sky Q will shut down and we have Sky Glass for pay tv. Freely for free tv both operate via broadband.

  10. I think it is going to be an interesting just to see how many people purchase a Hisense TV to have access to this new service sales will be carefully monitored i dare say. If someone is experiencing reception issues this may well prove a good solution and it also affords everyone TV the opportunity to monitor and tweak/debug the service prior to national release but let’s not forget one will require a fast stable broadband connection to receive this new service that said this then allows total flexibility when it comes to installing tvs about the home no aerial or dish needed. This could well be the future of tv, interesting times.

    • Like you say many people can’t have an aerial, dish or cable.

      Netflix HD only needs a 2Mbps broadband connection so assuming your internet is reliable it should be fine.

      • 2Mbps is to watch Netflix HD only, your Internet connection will depend on the number of occupants the number of devices being used at any one time hence high speed reliable broadband will be essential.


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