Freeview Viewers’ Hopes Dashed: Freesports Not Returning

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Despite Premier Sports’ triumphant return to the UK sports broadcasting scene this week, fans hoping for the revival of Freesports, the once-beloved free-to-air sports channel, are set to be disappointed.

The Freesports channel, which used to be available on Freeview and Freesat and was then removed from the free-to-air platforms, underwent a significant change in late 2022 when it was rebranded as Viaplay Xtra following Viaplay’s acquisition of Premier Sports.

However, Viaplay Xtra met the same fate as its predecessor, ceasing its broadcast on Sky and Virgin Media earlier this year, due to Viaplay’s decision to exit the UK market.

This week, Premier Sports has confirmed to us that there are no plans to bring back Freesports, leaving Freeview, Freesat, and the pay-TV platforms without a new dedicated free sports channel.

Freesports: A Look Back

Launched in 2017, Freesports was a haven for sports enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of sporting events without the need for paid subscriptions.

FreeSports logo

The channel covered various sports categories, including selected football matches, motorsports events, ice hockey, rugby, cricket, and more.

Freesports was initially widely accessible on Freeview and Freesat (and the pay-TV platforms), as well as online with the Freesports Player, making it a go-to destination for fans seeking free sports content.

FreeSports player
Freesports Player

However, the landscape began to shift in 2020 when Freesports was removed from Freesat, followed by its removal from Freeview in 2022, limiting its reach to a broader audience.

The channel underwent another significant change in late 2022 when Viaplay, the Nordic entertainment company, acquired Premier Sports.

This acquisition led to the rebranding of Freesports to Viaplay Xtra.

While the channel’s name changed, its core proposition remained the same: providing sports content at no extra cost to Sky and Virgin Media’s core subscribers.

However, in January 2024, Viaplay Xtra, the last remnant of the Freesports legacy, ceased broadcasting on Sky and Virgin Media.

Viaplay Xtra collage

The closure was a consequence of Viaplay’s strategic decision to withdraw from the UK market, marking the end of an era for the channel that once provided diverse sports coverage to fans without additional costs.

The shutdown of Viaplay Xtra left a gap in the semi-free sports broadcasting sector, as it was one of the only remaining channels offering sports content at no extra cost to basic subscribers of Sky and Virgin Media TV – not to mention Freeview and Freesat viewers, who also lost SportyStuff TV last month.

Viaplay Xtra’s shutdown disappointed fans who relied on the channel for access to a wide range of sporting events, including motorsports, ice hockey, cricket, and live La Liga football matches.

Watching football on smartphone phone

Premier Sports’ Return and the Absence of Freesports

The return of Premier Sports to the UK market this week, following Viaplay’s decision to exit due to financial difficulties and a need to refocus on its core Nordic operations, had given fans a glimmer of hope that Freesports might also make a comeback.

Alas, Premier Sports’ recent confirmation has put an end to those speculations.

The confirmation first came via social media when a user directly asked Premier Sports about the possibility of Freesports making a comeback.

The company’s response was unequivocal, saying there are no plans to bring it back – dashing any hopes of the channel’s revival.

We reached out to Premier Sports and received the same confirmation: “There are no plans right now to bring back FreeSports or a similar free-to-air channel.”

The landscape of sports broadcasting in the UK, therefore, continues to shift towards subscription-based and streaming services, making it increasingly challenging for fans to access their favourite sports content without incurring extra expenses (but you can still catch some major events on the BBC and ITV).

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