Freeview And Freesat’s Future: Freely Unveils New Features

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Freely, the broadband-based replacement for Freeview and Freesat, is coming soon – and today, we can finally reveal its upcoming launch window and unveil some of its features and user interface.

With a Q2 2024 launch date now confirmed (meaning sometime between April and June), Freely aims to revolutionize the UK free television landscape by merging live and on-demand content in a seamless, user-friendly package – that’s based on broadband and not on aerials or satellites (though Freeview and Freesat are not going anywhere, for now).

Promising features such as live pause, restart, and streamlined access to additional episodes (without the need to record), Freely is designed to cater to the modern viewer’s demands, ensuring that free TV remains a staple in the era of broadband consumption.

Freely Freeview Freesat collage

And, while we’re already familiar with some of these features from pay-TV based streaming solutions, such as Sky Stream and EE TV – Freely will be the first service to incorporate these features into a free platform.

What Is Freely?

Freely, which was announced in September 2023, is not merely an addition to the UK’s free-to-air broadcasting ecosystem but a reinvention of it.

Born out of a collaboration between the UK’s major broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 – Freely is being developed by Everyone TV, the body behind Freeview and Freesat.

Freely’s mission is to combine the benefits of Freeview and Freesat with the expansive possibilities of streaming.

This initiative aims to ensure that free-to-air television remains relevant and accessible in the broadband era, offering a comprehensive suite of features designed to enhance the viewer’s experience without imposing additional costs.

According to research, more than half of UK homes will watch TV exclusively over broadband by 2030 – therefore a significant aspect of Freely is its approach to delivery, promising a service that eliminates the need for traditional aerial or satellite connections.

Instead, viewers can look forward to a world where any smart TV with Wi-Fi can access a wide array of live and on-demand content.

This also 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 UI show page bake off
Freely’s interface

However, Freely has also been designed to ensure both backwards and forward compatibility.

Freely devices will operate like a standard DTT (aerial-based) device if only connected to an aerial and not broadband, or (at a later stage) like a Freesat device if just connected to DSat.

But, it’s also important to remember that Freely’s broadband-based channels list and its over-the-air (DTT aerial-based) channels list will most likely not be identical, especially at launch – meaning some over-the-air Freeview channels will not be available on the streaming side of Freely, and vice versa.

And – at launch, Freely will only be supported on next-gen Smart TVs (another Smart TV partner was announced today – Vestel). Therefore, set-top boxes and pre-2024 TV set will NOT support Freely at this stage.

Freely’s User Interface Revealed

Today, Freely has unveiled exciting details about its user interface (UI), showcasing features designed to modernize the free TV experience.

Freely UI show Mini Guide

According to Freely, viewers will be – for the first time in a free service – granted the ability to effortlessly switch between live and on-demand content from leading UK broadcasters.

This integration is further enhanced by functionalities such as pause, restart, and access to more episodes, all without additional charges.

Of course, these features are already available on platforms such as Sky Stream and Virgin Media Stream, which put their own UI on a streaming-based Freeview platform – but those services cost money, and Freely is, well, free.

And, just like Freeview Play, Freely will provide a “consistent and recognisable” user experience across all Freely-enabled TVs in the market regardless of how it is accessed.

Freely UI TV Guide

This approach ensures that regardless of the brand or model of the smart TV, users can enjoy a uniform interface that marries the convenience of streaming with the richness of traditional broadcast content (alas, it will only be available on actual TVs, at least at launch – and not on set-top boxes or mobile devices).

The new user interface features, which are streamlined – and streaming-based – versions of features we know from other platforms, are:

MiniGuide: This pop-up interface appears each time users switch channels, creating a seamless browsing experience and enabling viewers to easily discover related live or on-demand content. 

Freely UI live TV Mini Guide
Freely MiniGuide on a Live Show

Browse: Viewers will be able to press the Freely button on their remote to explore recommended live and on-demand programming from the UK’s leading broadcasters and free-to-air channels, all in one place.

TV Guide: An intuitive 7-day guide that integrates live TV and on-demand content discovery, simplifying access to favourite shows and new episodes.

Freely UI EPG
Freely’s EPG

Today Freely is also announcing its upcoming collaboration with UKTV (soon to be called U) to bring its portfolio of free channels to the platform via broadband. Those channels include Dave, Drama, Yesterday and W.

Sarah Milton and Carl Pfeiffer, Joint Chief Product Officers at Everyone TV, said: “It’s clear the way people are watching TV is changing, with more audiences switching over to a broadband-only connection.

“We’ve built Freely around the needs of British audiences, bringing them the freedom to choose how they want to watch, with all their favourite shows from the UK’s leading broadcasters all in one place for free.

“We’re really proud of what we’re launching with Freely and are excited about bringing major enhancements like the MiniGuide to viewers as Freely launches in Q2 this year.”

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