Freeview And Freesat’s Big Shift: A New TV Era Is Coming

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A seismic shift that could redefine the way we consume Freeview and television in the UK is on the horizon: Everyone.TV, the company behind Freeview and Freesat, has just released a new plan that could redefine our television experience.

This proposed plan is all about embracing the future of television, which is increasingly moving towards streaming services and away from traditional broadcasting.

The aim is to make television more accessible, more integrated, and more user-friendly.

For viewers, this means a more streamlined way to discover and enjoy your favourite shows. The traditional TV guide that you’re used to will get a major upgrade, making it easier to navigate through channels and find what you want to watch.

Plus, there will be closer integration with on-demand services, so you can effortlessly switch between live TV and catch-up content.

Couple watching smart tv

This is a big deal for all of us who love watching TV in the UK.

It’s not just about new technology – it’s about how this technology will change our viewing habits, our access to content, and even how we think about what television can be.

For now, Everyone.TV (formerly known as Digital UK – which now operates both Freeview AND Freesat) is looking to hear opinions from the public about these proposed changes – but the consultation (as first reported by seen.it), gives us a glimpse of Freeview and Freesat’s possible fate.

So, let’s dive into the details and explore what this could mean for the future of television.

The Next-Generation TV Platform

The NGP (Next Generation Platform) is a future-facing platform that’s set to redefine the delivery of free TV in the UK.

As we previously reported, the BBC announced back in May that it’s already working with Everyone.TV and the other Public Service Broadcasters on “the launch of the next generation of internet-enabled, free-to-air experiences across a wide range of television devices”.

With Everyone.TV’s consultation, we now get more details about the proposed next-generation platform.

The NGP is designed to be a sleek, modern interface that’s suitable for TV sets of all sizes. It will incorporate a traditional electronic programme guide (EPG) for accessing linear TV channels, but with a twist.

The NGP will also offer closer integration with broadcasters’ on-demand services, making it easier than ever to switch between live TV and catch-up content.

ITVX Categories TV mockup

The NGP is expected to roll out initially on some smart TV and set-top box models with Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) and Internet Protocol (IP) compatibility.

This means that it will work with both your traditional aerial connection and your internet connection, giving you the best of both worlds. Satellite (DSat) compatibility could follow at a later stage, further expanding the reach of the platform.

The Evolution of the Electronic Programme Guide

One of the key changes proposed in the consultation is the evolution of the 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.

Manhattan T1 with freeview EPG
The EPG On Manhattan’s Freeview Box

 

The proposed Next Generation EPG will be fundamentally different from the current Freeview and Freesat EPGs. There are two key reasons for this divergence:

1. Differences Between Freeview and Freesat

The first reason lies in the inherent differences between the existing Freeview and Freesat EPGs.

Both platforms 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.

For instance, the Freesat EPG starts at Channel 101, while Freeview starts at Channel 1.

Watching Freesat living room 1200
Photo: Freesat

Moreover, due to its larger capacity, Freesat offers more channels in total than Freeview. The policies for allocating and reorganising channels also vary significantly between the two platforms.

These differences mean that there is no default status quo listing that could be used as a starting point for an NGP.

2. Integration Of Streaming Channels

The second reason for the totally new EPG is the need to integrate IP-delivered (streaming) channels.

The Next Generation Platform is designed to be future-proof and technology-neutral, meaning it will fully integrate NGP-approved channels that are streamed via broadband, within the EPG.

As a result, when the NGP first launches, its initial channel line-up will be different from the line-ups on Freeview and Freesat.

These differences will grow over time as more NGP-approved IP channels, delivered only via broadband, are launched.

In essence, the NGP is not just a continuation of the existing Freeview and Freesat platforms, but a whole new evolution in free TV.

It’s a platform designed to embrace the future of television, where IP-delivered content will play an increasingly prominent role – without the need for an aerial.

New Freeview Play 2022 mockup
Freeview Play

The new EPG will be set up with rules for its ongoing management post-launch – they are not set in stone but are intended to shape the launch version of the Next Generation EPG.

This means that it will be continually updated and refined to ensure it meets the needs of viewers.

The Future of Genre Categories in the EPG

The Next Generation Platform aims to enhance the viewer experience by introducing genre categories in the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG).

This decision is backed by audience research that showed a desire for genre groupings to help viewers find content, a feature that has become increasingly popular with the rise of on-demand services.

However, striking the right balance in genre categorisation is crucial. While the NGP will potentially offer more channels due to the capacity of IP-delivery, creating too many genre categories could hinder content discovery.

family watching tv at home

For instance, a separate Movies genre category could divide films between mixed-genre channels in the Entertainment section and film channels in the Movies section.

The analysis suggests that the optimal number of main TV genre categories on an NGP is more than currently available on the Freeview EPG but less than on Freesat.

Entertainment, being the largest category, will remain a single category in the new EPG. However, genres like Movies and Sports, which are predominantly pay services on pay-TV platforms, should not be broken out in a Next Generation EPG.

watching Sports on TV football soccer

On the other hand, genres like Music, Shopping, and Faith and International channels, which are distinct from Entertainment channels, are seen as beneficial to be included as separate categories in an NGP EPG.

These changes aim to better organise content for audience navigability on the NGP, ensuring a more streamlined and user-friendly viewing experience.

The Future Of Time-Shift (+1) Channels

Time-shift channels, known as ‘+1’ versions of Entertainment channels, offer their parent channel’s schedule with a one-hour delay.

However, with the rise of catch-up streaming services, there are now more innovative ways of catching up on content, such as Freeview Play’s ability to “go back in time” 7 days on the EPG, allowing you to stream previously aired shows via the broadcasters streaming apps.

Amazon Fire TV Omni Freeview guide

Despite advancements in catch-up services, some Time-shift channels will remain on the Next Generation Platform.

To streamline this, Everyone TV proposes a separate Time-shift genre category following the Entertainment section in the guide.

This arrangement will declutter the main Entertainment section, and channels will be allocated numbers in the same order as their parent channels, making navigation easier for viewers.

The Impact On TV Viewers In The UK

So, what does all this mean for you, the viewer? The new channel numbers policy for the Next Generation platform is designed with several key objectives in mind, all aimed at improving your TV viewing experience.

First, the policy aims to make it easy for viewers to discover content through simple navigation. This means less time spent scrolling through channels and more time enjoying your favourite shows.

Second, the policy ensures the ongoing prominence of public service channels. This means that channels like the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 will continue to be easy to find and access (something the BBC is also working on – for example with the proposal to add an iPlayer button to streaming devices).

Third, the new system aims to keep you and your family safe. Children’s content will be kept separate from adult content, ensuring a safe viewing environment for all ages.

Fourth, the system will be fair and efficient. As new channels are added, the TV guide will stay organised and easy to navigate.

Finally, the policy aims to make it easier for viewers to transition to streaming-based free TV channels in the years ahead.

This is a significant point as it acknowledges the growing trend towards streaming and on-demand content. The NGP is designed to provide a seamless viewing experience when viewers move between broadcast and IP-delivered channels.

The Future Of Freeview?

The consultation is open for responses until August 25, 2023. Everyone TV encourages responses from all stakeholders in free TV platforms.

This includes TV channel providers, radio service providers, DTT multiplex, satellite and other distribution technology operators, device manufacturers, consumer groups, and viewers and listeners.

While some fear that Freeview will disappear once streaming takes over, the future of Freeview (and Freesat) is looking bright with the possible introduction of the Next Generation Platform.

Couple watching smart TV in living room 1200

As viewers, we can look forward to a more streamlined, integrated, and user-friendly experience that takes streaming into consideration.

The NGP represents a significant step towards a future where TV is based more on streaming and less on traditional over-the-air broadcasts.

This is a future where viewers have more control over what they watch, when they watch it, and how they access it – and it’s all free.

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33 thoughts on “Freeview And Freesat’s Big Shift: A New TV Era Is Coming”

  1. ‘Everyone tv’? The name is vague and the result will confuse and bamboozle tv viewers who don’t have an expensive new compatible ‘smart telly’. What is needed right now is an on-line style Freeveiw service. You’d simply plug a wi-fi dongle into the tv’s hdmi socket and off you go, no need for a tv aerial or sat dish!

    Reply
    • In an ideal world, we would love to scrap all aerials, sockets and be connected to a smarter way of viewing our tv, but the sad reality is that will not happen for at least another 10 years. This set back is cause by network providers not willing to invest more in its technological infrustructure, like reliable wifi (how often have you had no signal – I know Vodafone and TalkTalk is guilty of this) and the ability to boost households with stronger reliable connections. Sadly, we’re either stuck with slow connections or in some cases, no connections at all.

      Reply
  2. HI from Peter. NO Broadband or super fast broadband in my neighborhood until at list 2038 I have checked with off com and I am very happy with free view TV but I am fed up with having to re tune every 3 or 4 months it is ridiculous just live all the channels alone as they are I think streaming TV programs will be very expensive and from what I have seen of it the picture is rubbish in the country side where I live there is no dab radio no mobile phone signal at all and no intranet we relay on a TV aerial and on analog radio MW LW and FM Radio are all very good out hear but soon when it as all been turned off we wont get any thing at all have now lost absolute radio off 1215MW and gold off 945MW and off 999am where all loud and clear hear every body complaining about it to off com but off com not interested at all about people how live in country side. off com thinks every body wants to do every thing online but what are we to do we will be cut off hear from TV and radio by the late 2020s I say bring back analog radio on MW and LW and live FM on it works great in the country side

    Reply
    • Wow! According to The Levelling Up White Paper back in February 2022, a gigabit broadband is to become available nationwide in 2030 (‘nationwide’ meaning about 99% coverage) and according to the Government, it remains committed to meet 85% of premises by 2025. Sounds like your local council had better get a bloomin’ move on.

      Admittedly, I was never fond of scheduled programming (terrestrial tv) since streaming was introduced…and this comes from a person who never owned a tv for a decade (from late 90s to late noughties), because of the amount of cheap, low budget reality tv shows that were around at the time and still are. At least with streaming, I get to watch what I want to watch and when I want to watch it.

      I hope you managed to get your broadband sorted out as there is some really good content out there to choose from.

      Reply
  3. Leave it as it is. Never have problems with over air broadcasts . But have many problems with streaming.
    It’s reset the box or resets the tv or reset the hub. It going back in time with adverts again. That’s when you went to make a cup of tea or toilet break .so no one watched them anyway.

    Reply
  4. I think for me the key thing will be to open up the platform to other manufacturers for free. Rather than just having a choice of a couple of freesat boxes.

    Giving that freeview is embedded into every modern tv, the new platform would need to offer something special in order to get people to upgrade.

    Also asking people to lay out for a freesat box when Sky give their boxes away for free is a big ask, yes I know you have to pay the subscription but with the choice of paying out £299 for a 2TB freesat box or £26/month including sky channels most people would go for option b

    Reply
  5. The marketing hype for the adoption of streaming is to get people onto so they cannot avoid watching adverts. Any new platform must include an option for recording programmes.

    Reply
    • I fear you are correct Paul. The content providers definitely will pack it with ads.
      As for recording I fear not…. how can I get you to pay for my subscription service to watch Dad’s Army reruns when you already recorded them all on your box.
      This is all about less control for viewers and more for CP

      Reply
    • Hi Doreen, I suppose if they move to delivery via the internet then you would need a VPN to pretend to be in the UK.

      Not sure how long the BBC/ITV has a contract for carriage on Astra, but it’s a cost they probably would want to reduce at some point in the future.

      Bear in mind this is a consultation so of course nothing is decided

      Reply
  6. The above article is like some sort of alphabet soup. Spare a thought for those of us of a certain age, who were not brought up with all this technology. Freeview is forever changing the channel numbers, and stations come and go. What is this British obsession with changing things all the time?
    Please let us have a few years at least, where we programme the set once and it stays programmed, so that we can do something more interesting in our leisure time.

    Reply
  7. They need to give the digibox manufacturers a good kick up the backside first, as the few recorder boxes available are shockingly bad from both a usability and reliability point of view. Freeview and Freesat manufacturers need to follow the lead of Sky’s here, as their boxes have been fantastic over the years.

    Or perhaps this is what all this is reshuffle about – move to streaming so there is no need for unreliable recorder boxes.

    Reply
    • Sky boxes fantastic? Not since Sky Q became a thing. Sky+ HD, fantastic. 6 months ago I finally told Sky where to shove their AWFUL Q box. Freesat boxes are better, but only because they’re subscription free. I still regularly lose regular recordings. There’s a litany of gripes but just don’t get me started.

      Reply
  8. All this is for an 80 year old is blah blah I have no idea what is going on dnt have broadband or any other tectechnology I have no spare money to update and replace a TV or indulge in broadband. Having already lost ITV hub and cant do itvX where is all this going to leave the likes of me.I have to go to a friend or the library to read an emai. I FEAR I WILL BE CUT OFF COMPLETELY

    Reply
    • Libraries are still cool….even my parents visit their local library to print off travel documents, because the ink for their printer is so expensive. 😄

      Reply
  9. I suppose this means another 15 years of channel position swapping for no good reason, and still only having seven HD channels down south, when its supposed to be 17 HD channels, and what does it amount to anyway, nothing but repeats and half a picture letterbox crap, and half a picture 43,(large black areas horizontally or vertical with no picture) with most of the TV companies stopping you changing 43 to full screen 16 9 on your remote, which they have NO right to do, the day the TV channels took over control of our televisions was the worst day in hell.

    Reply
    • If something is filmed in 4:3, that’s the maximum you can get on screen. If you want to get rid of black bars you either stretch the picture (terrible) or cut out the frame (also terrible). Why would you want to watch it in such an idiotic way?

      Reply
  10. Two issues to solve:
    1. Big catchup needed where terrestrial TV is slow to update from SD to HD when the rest of the world is looking at 4K, Atmos, 120Hz and beyond. How have we got so many sub-HD channels still going when every TV sold is capable of 4K?

    2. The fractured ecosystem where you can only get certain services like 4OD on certain platforms. There is no cohesive platform to pull all the services together under one package.

    This is too little too late. They should aim at the future, not tell us they’re fixing the problems they’ve left in place for years. Come on people, dare to dream big and not penny-pinch it down to another colourful logo update

    Reply
    • Many, especially in rural areas have slow or non-existant broadband making much hi res TV unviewable. For this reason I have not upgraded my TV for over 12 years.

      Reply
  11. With all the technology why are we still showing HD and only a hand full of channels. There should be more UHD. No wonder viewers are going to other platforms.

    Reply
  12. I’m a bit confused about all this – would I need broadband when all changes take place to watch tv?
    Or will most of it still stay the same – I hope so as I don’t have broadband .

    Reply
    • For at least the next few years, most Freeview / Freesat channels will likely continue to work via an aerial / satellite dish. In the more distant future – everything will probably switch to streaming…

      Reply
      • If viewing does go fully streaming, then the isp’s will be rubbing their hands with contention being a real problem they will be looking to sell better streaming via more bandwidth. Its all about making money in this country now.

        Reply
  13. I personally feel one area which I would find useful the ability to personalise the epg ie add or remove channels to suit individual needs this would allow viewers to tailor their own viewing needs this truly would be innovative.

    Reply
  14. UHD ,HDR, Dolby vision , Dobly atmos, 120hz,
    That’s the future, which is Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon. YouTube , Disney’s+.
    BBC, ITV channel 4, still stuck in the past, and slowly dying.

    Reply
  15. Id like to see an NGP app for Apple TV with the ability to easily stream all live Freeview/Freesat channels. Also id be quite happy if they developed a Freesat style box which streamed channels over my LAN to the app.

    Reply

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