UK TV Earthquake: Freeview And Freesat Become One Company

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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.

Family watching Freeview Play 1200
Photo: Freeview

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.

Freesat 4K TV Boxes

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”.

Watching freesat in living room
(Photo: 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.

Freeview Play 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.

13 thoughts on “UK TV Earthquake: Freeview And Freesat Become One Company”

  1. The word ‘Free’ is mentioned only 53 times on this page – and the media in general too – but don’t you need to have a BBC licence if you plug any of these services in & watch live? A licence often dearer than a standard streamer? Many countries have a form of licence (sometimes paid through the electricity bill!), but there are notable exceptions such as USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and the Netherlands where it really is ‘free’.
    It just strikes me as possibly one of the greatest marketing misnomer cons – & trading standards misrepresentations – of all time!
    Invisible in plain sight lol.

    • I know for a fact that in Australia the channels with a public broadcasting remit are funded by government through taxes. Public broadcasting in New Zealand is funded through New Zealand Government body New Zealand On Air, in Canada the CBC is funded by the government. Likewise in the Netherlands where NOS is partly funded by government. In France they have a license fee similar in cost to the UK AND there are adverts on all channels. I could go on. In the UK we pay a license fee only if we avail ourselves of the license-fee funded channels – so there is an element of choice other countries do not have. Funding by license is more impartial than if it came directly from government coffers. I think we have a win win situation.

  2. FreeView is by far the inferior product
    but by far the cheapest option.

    I hope to see a unified box, Apps and OS & some cooperation for all new buildings to have wiring for both Satellite & Aerial inputs

    • That’s mostly up to the channel provider (and the costs they’re willing to pay), and the merger will probably have no effect on that, at least in the near future.

  3. Sorry to be picky, but this statement is not true:-

    “To watch Freesat, you need a dish on your roof”

    Virtually ALL Satellite dishes are wall mounted and others can be mounted on poles at virtually ground level. A dish on the roof is extremely rare.

  4. I’m a freesat user and was wondering if we will see some of the channels that are currently on Freeview only, 4music and Now 70’s 80’s etc for example?


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