Freesat and Digital UK (the company that operates Freeview) are now one: the big TV shakeup was made official with an announcement from BBC, ITV and Channel 4 today.
Plans for the big merger were announced back in March, but were awaiting approval from the regulatory bodies. Today, Freesat was integrated into Digital UK, therefore Freeview and Freesat have been integrated, or more accurately – the company behind them.
Freeview, first established in 2002, is the United Kingdom’s digital terrestrial television platform. It provides more than 80 free-to-air TV channels (some in HD) and radio stations.
The channels can be watched via an indoor/outdoor aerial (see the ones we recommend), and a Freeview box (see our recommendations) connected to that aerial and to your TV (plus, UK TVs already come with a Freeview receiver – though without recording capabilities, in most cases).
Freeview Play, the broadband-based platform, offers broadband-based streaming catch-up apps from some of the main broadcasters and channels, such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and others.
Digital UK, a company owned jointly by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, leads the development of Freeview and Freeview Play. It also holds the Ofcom licences to provide an Electronic Programme Guide (To confuse things a bit further, there’s also DTV Services LTD, which operates Freeview – where Sky is also a shareholder).
Then there’s Freesat, which was established in 2007 by the BBC and ITV, and offers more than 200 free-to-air TV channels and radio stations, all transmitted via digital satellite.
To watch Freesat, you need a dish outside your house and a Freesat receiver (see our recommended Freesat boxes here), which is why it can work better in areas where Freeview reception is bad.
With both companies offering similar services – and owned by two of the same companies (BBC and ITV) – having them operate separately was often questioned. Now, that is finally changing.
Freesat Integrates With Freeview
As part of the merger, Digital UK has acquired Freesat from its two shareholders, the BBC and ITV, following the transaction being cleared by the relevant authorities and regulators (With Digital UK itself owned by the same BBC and ITV, as well as Channel 4).
The process of bringing together the operations of the two businesses will be implemented over the coming months, with Jonathan Thompson, Digital UK’s current CEO, leading the combined entity.
Freesat’s CEO, Alistair Thom, will be departing his role, with the BBC and ITV thanking him “for his excellent leadership of Freesat”.
Jonathan Thompson, now the CEO of the combined body, said today: “I’m delighted to be heading up the new entity and am very much looking forward to leading the development of free-to-view TV in the UK over the coming years.
“Freeview and Freesat are both major success stories for the UK’s TV industry and wider society, enabling the public policy goals that underpin public service broadcasting, allowing access to high-quality TV for free, for all.”
As of now, there are no known plans to merge the two brands, with Freeview and Freesat keeping their respective names (which makes sense, since they operate differently in customers homes).
However, it remains to be seen whether any changes will come to both services. Channel 4, for example, now owns a part of Freesat (through Digital UK) – while Channel 4 HD and its All4 streaming service were removed from Freesat a few years ago.
Furthermore, a few months ago we reported about an all-in-one streaming app that the major broadcasters are working on, which is meant to bring together content from all of them into one service/app.
According to the BBC, this cooperation between the UK broadcasters is necessary in light of global players (like Amazon’s Fire TV, the Roku Players and Smart TV manufacturers) who “control operating systems and intermediate our services.”
Now that Freesat and Freeview are part of the same company, it stands to reason that a united app will become available on Freesat’s devices as well – but we’ll have to wait and see.