Freeview’s Streaming Revolution Is Here: ‘Freely’ Unveiled

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In a groundbreaking move that promises to redefine the way British viewers consume television, the UK’s leading broadcasters have announced a new free TV service called Freely.

This service aims to deliver live TV over broadband, merging the traditional TV experience with the modern streaming era. 

In other words, it will be the streaming replacement of Freeview and Freesat, although those aren’t going anywhere – for now (see more details below).

Set to launch in 2024, Freely is being developed by Everyone TV (formerly known as Digital UK), an organisation jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 – which is currently responsible for operating both Freeview and Freesat.

New Freeview Play 2022 mockup
Freeview Play

This development comes at a pivotal time when the lines between traditional broadcasting and online streaming are increasingly blurring.

As we previously reported, the UK has been anticipating an all-in-one UK streaming app that could serve as a one-stop-shop for viewers – without needing an aerial or a satellite dish.

Freely appears to be a significant step in that direction, offering a single, consistent experience for live free TV over the internet.

The Evolution Of Freeview In The Streaming Age

According to the announcement made today by all the public broadcasters, Freely will provide millions of homes with easy access to live TV channels and on-demand content, all streamed directly to their smart TVs.

Couple watching smart TV in living room 1200

This is a significant shift from the traditional terrestrial TV model, which required a separate set-top box and an aerial/satellite connection.

As we previously reported, Freeview and Freesat were already hinting at a new era for TV, with their services becoming increasingly integrated with smart TVs.

Freely seems to be the next logical step, building on the heritage and popularity of the Freeview platform, which is currently used in 16 million homes across the UK.

The service will feature a modern and intuitive programme guide, along with innovative functionalities designed to make it easier for viewers to discover and explore new shows directly from live TV.

Amazon Fire TV Omni Freeview guide
Freeview’s Current EPG

Technical details are still scarce – the announcement mentions that Freely will be available on the “next generation of Smart TVs” – but it’s still unclear whether it will be available as an app on streaming devices such as Amazon’s Fire TV and Roku.

The move is also in line with the draft Media Bill, which aims to modernise broadcasting legislation and introduce reforms for public service broadcasters (PSBs) and video-on-demand services.

Part of the Media Bill deals with the prominence of the UK’s public broadcasters on Smart TVs and streaming devices – and it remains to be seen how Freely will be a part of that.

For example, TV manufacturers (and even streaming sticks) could be required to add a dedicated “Freely” button on their remote.

What Will I Be Able To Watch On Freely?

One of the most pressing questions for viewers is undoubtedly what kind of content will be available on Freely.

While today’s announcement did not delve into specifics, it did mention that the service would feature a line-up of public service broadcaster content and other free-to-air channels.

With the public broadcasters all involved, it’s safe to assume Freely will include all of their live streams – BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

But given the involvement of Everyone TV, which runs Freeview and Freesat, it’s also likely that Freely will include most (if not all) of the channels that are currently available on Freeview and Freesat.

This could range from news channels to more niche offerings. The service might also include children’s channels, thereby catering to a younger audience, as well as cultural and educational channels.

Metz Roku TV Freeview Play
Freeview Play

The announcement also highlighted the service’s focus on on-demand content, which suggests that Freely will offer more than just live TV.

This could mean integration with existing on-demand services like BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4, and My5, which already exists on Freeview Play today.

But – hopefully – on-demand content will be available from the more niche Freeview channels as well.

The Technology Behind Freely

One of the most exciting aspects of Freely is its technological infrastructure. The service will be built into the next generation of smart TVs, eliminating the need for additional hardware or subscriptions.

This is a significant development, as 15% of UK TV homes are currently broadband-only, according to BARB Establishment Survey data – and this number will likely grow in the future.

As we previously reported, Freeview had already started streaming BBC channels digitally, indicating a shift towards IP-based distribution.

Freely seems to be taking this to the next level by offering an aggregated live TV experience over broadband.

BBC iPlayer loading on TV

The TV guide, which remains the most common navigation tool for UK audiences, will also get a modern makeover, making it easier for viewers to find and watch their favourite shows.

It remains unclear how Freely will live alongside the broadcasters’ apps – BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 5 and My5 -with those already providing live and on-demand streaming versions of the broadcasters’ channels. 

ITVX watching TV mockup

It is worth mentioning that broadband-based Freeview already exists via the pay-TV boxes – Sky Stream (and Sky Glass), Virgin Media Stream and the BT TV Box Pro.

However, these boxes only carry a selection of Freeview channels – and, crucially, you have to pay a monthly subscription fee in order to use them. Freely, like Freeview, will be free (aside from the TV Licence).

Freely is set to launch sometime in 2024, but for now, it’s important to remember that even then, Freeview and Freesat won’t be disappearing – especially when many homes in the UK still don’t have access to fast broadband.

But, in the future, it’s safe to assume Freely – and internet-based TV – will eventually replace both Freeview and Freesat.

Jonathan Thompson, Everyone TV chief executive, said today: “We are delighted to be working with the public service broadcasters on the next phase of free TV’s evolution.

“This new development is a reflection of the fact that a growing number of UK viewers are watching content online, but still want easy access to the shared experience of live TV.

“Our aim is to ensure that all viewers have access to a free, aggregated live TV experience that champions British content and is delivered in a way that suits audience needs and preferences.

“Every one of us should be able to share in the best of British ideas and creativity on TV.”

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33 thoughts on “Freeview’s Streaming Revolution Is Here: ‘Freely’ Unveiled”

  1. I think Freely is a positive development. What interests me is the time delay on internet channels. Watching live channels on the BBC iPlayer can be the best part of a minute behind aerial or satellite. If Freely can master the technology to reduce time delays it will be a really good service.

  2. Moving aside the issue of where birds will land if no aerials or sat dishes on the wall 😉 The primary issue, and already eluded to above, is about recording. I appreciate you can catch up and all that but apart from then being able to skip ads the reason for recording is to preserve programs and films you want. All the platforms have a habit of just removing content at whim so there is no guarantee things will be there to go back to.

    I also hope that this doesn’t put the brakes on the Manhattan box that keeps getting pushed back. I still think there is a market for freeview recorder boxes and our old Humax is limping now so hope it comes out soon.

  3. Isn’t this a step towards being able to charge for all TV channels as it’s easy to do via an app. It is much more difficult to tell who is using an antenna to watch whatever but an app will pinpoint who is watching, what’s being watched and where (with location services switched on). If we could only watch with an app then they can, and will, monetize it.

  4. I have just bought a freesat 4k recorder box
    When the new service arrives will I still be able to use this for the new service or will have to buy another box as I’m not aiming to buy another tv

  5. Like a lot of comments on here, I like to record programmes on commercial TV channels because I hate adverts. I know that they will say that’s how TV stations generate revenue but on the rare occasion that I have watched a “live” Channel 4 program and had to endure the adverts, nothing was aimed at me. I don’t need sanitary products, I don’t need to dog or cat food, I don’t need to change Banks, I certainly don’t need to make my home smell in a certain way and I never get sucked in to buying something that’s in a “sale” or that I am that lazy that I want fast food delivered to my door. But mainly the reason why I don’t like adverts is because I don’t identify with actors/scenarios portrayed in those adverts.
    So yes I will keep recording and “skipping” the mind numbing drivel.
    Thanks, I feel better for that. Everyone have a great weekend.

    • We are being treated like sheep, herded towards a technical change that has nothing to do with improving our viewing experience and everything to do with forcing yet more commercials down out throats. I , too hate adverts and I also hate the clunky awkward apps like iPlayer , all4 etc that take forever to load, maybe login AGAIN, and wait for ages just to get to a start point for looking for a programme. The essence of recording to me is that I can store a catalogue of stuff I can surf when I want instead of dealing with those damned useless watchlists and recommendations. I also hate the uncertainty of episodes from box sets disappearing on the whim of somebody else. All hail the fast forward through commercial drivel that gets in the way of what YOU want to watch. I despair.

      • I kind of agree Peter. I mean we saw this already with the transfer from analogue to digital. It was sold to the public as meaning higher quality and more choice but actually the real reason was to allow the government to sell off the bandwidth for 4G.
        In the end we have more channels (of cr@p.. ideal world anyone) and people had to buy new equipment to get them.

        • Freely and This current change to internet everything feels cynical and done for money but you just sound old and stubborn saying things like analogue was better than digital. It just sounds like nostalgia. There are very obvious improvements to sound and video quality in almost every way from analogue to digital. Never mind the fact that a lot of this was because of the rapid advancements in the “equipment” as you so put it. Good luck trying to convince somebody that a standard definition CRT looks better than a HD modern LCD or OLED. and yes opening the radio spectrum up for 4G was a factor but the digital switchover was also going to happen given how inefficient and power intensive it was to be transmitting at maximum 5 channels over analogue terrestrial tv. It was going to change over regardless of what happened with 4G.

          • In fact if you read my comment, you would see my point was that we are told one reason (higher quality which is true) when the true reason is actually to enable the sell off of radio spectrum.
            As for being old and nostalgic, I got Sky Digital on the first day of launch, I got an iPhone on the first day of launch. I have had Top Up Tv, Dream boxes, as I am an early adopter and I will likely adopt Freely as soon as it comes out.

    • Hey Jim, yes you’ve spotted the gotcha, you won’t be able to record but will have access to the equivalent of the catch up apps, but the aim is to make this more easy to use for example by not forcing you to use and sign in to multiple apps.

      I honestly don’t know when they will stop terrestrial, but I suppose it has to be on the cards. Once mobile coverage. is faster and wider we may see channels being delivered this way as well.

      I have been using an Apple TV with TV Launcher since leaving Sky Stream and I’m super excited to see if Freely will be available here

  6. Guess it’s only a matter of time before this will be the only way to watch – so how about us poor souls watching from Europe? It’s already hard enough to watch BBC and ITV catchup, even with a vpn. Channels 4 and 5 already are able to block my viewing even though I use a vpn.
    At least a dish based signal is more or less block proof.

  7. Is freely to be available only in Uk, and will it be installed only on new tvs bought in UK? We live in France and use Amazon firestick and vpn to watch programmes.

  8. I’m surprised nobody is asking about the privacy implications of this app and streaming generally. The internet is a two way communication channel!
    Broadcast tv is completely private but all the streamers collect lots of data about our viewing habits.
    What data will this app collect?
    Who will this data belong to?
    Will I be able to switch off the data collection?

      • I think the point being if I choose to watch Bake Off via my aerial no-one knows what I have watched. However once it is streamed (and presumably they will require an ‘account’ in order to access) then they can of course start to sell this data. Here is someone interested in baking Mr Tesco.

        As a country we have given literally billions of dollars of data to companies like google, Facebook etc in return for what? some free email

        • Yes, that is exactly my point. Freely will, potentially, capture the viewing habits of most the British population. That would be worth a lot of money.
          Will the opt-outs for data collection be east to find and use?
          Who will own this data and how will it be protected from mis-use, either by commercial companies or even government?

          • You have highlighted a very contentious topic that sadly is becoming the norm. We are not China but it is becoming increasingly the case that data is king and though your viewing habits may seem innocuous it has potential to be used to put you in a bubble as to what you get to view and adverts targeted. I have nothing to hide but do fear the rise of ai and the need to categorise everything about a person.

  9. another excuse to justify the licence fee , time the BBC fended for itself and stopped making rubbish under the pretence of diversity. UK channels are all bad just churning out junk tv , with the likes of Netflix,Apple and Paramount and Disney and Prime who needs them and their annoying ads

  10. Freely? at the moment once you’ve bought your equipment ie aerial,or dish, viewing media,box,tv etc and tv licence that’s it. Surely freely is adding a cost to tv viewing by introducing recurring isp broadband charges and while in a distant future land everyone will have access to “cheap and reliable ” high speed broadband that’s not the case at present. I also wonder if broadcasters are going to use broadband as a media distribution network will they be made to pay a cost towards its installation,operation and up keep, after all they will be saving money on satellites and tv masts. Just a thought.

    • Well with copper Telephone being switched off in 2yrs, everybody will have to get a basic broadband connection (even if the isp have to help the vulnerable and elderly)
      This is just how technology is heading 👍

  11. This announcement does leave some unanswered questions.

    What about recording? Will this be possible? Or will it depend on taking the viewer to the on demand services like the not very good Sky Stream model? This seems to be the desired solution of the broadcasters, who seem determined to wean us off making our own recordings and moving us to where they can force feed even more advertisements at us.

    And will it be available on all current smart TV’s and other media like the Firestick, Roku, etc?

    • Why do you need to record tv programmes, when you can watch it on catch up throught BBC Iplayer ITVX etc etc . Gone are the days of VCR VHS Recorders, All what will happen is Freeview tv channels will merge onto the new Streaming Platform and all you needs is to pull the plug on the tv aerial on the back of your smart tv and be connected to broadband through the landline. i think older smart tv which were built after 2019 is capable receiving this, it maybe tight to number slot.

      • Millions of people still record programmes, whether it be on set-top boxes, VHS, DVD or whatever. Using all the commercial streaming platforms involves watching adverts, sponsorships, etc, whilst a recording can just fast Forward through them. It’s commercial TV’s way of making viewers watch adverts.

        I have Sky Stream which is near identical to what Freely seems to be shaping up to be, and I have to pay £2.50pm to skip through the adverts, although it is very clunky. If the Sky Puck had a USB plug, maybe a recording stick could be used, but I have a feeling Sky (and Freely) are being urged and maybe being paid not to allow recordings by the commercial TV companies.

        I already know of several people who won’t go to Sky Stream because of the lack of recording capability. It was almost that foe me but I took the plunge because of the convenience, and I still have a YouView box which can record many terrestrial programmes, so it’s not too bad.

        • This new free service is anything but free become you need broadband subscription to get evening out of it. Not like freeview and freest that’s truly free

          • Using your own reasoning, then Freeview and Freesat are not free either as you have to buy a TV and/or a set-top box to watch, plus you have to pay for electricity and pay for a TV licence to make them work and make them legal.

      • I record everything i can to avoid the endlessly repeated adverts and trailers that interupt my viewing pleasure when i’m unwinding at the end of a long day at work. Annoying and irrelevant ads smashing into the atmosheric and involving film i’m watching does absolutely nothing to enhance my life or peace of mind!

      • Most On demand programmes are only available for a short time, though series may be available for much longer. If you want to watch programmes much later on or keep them permanently then being able to record them is vital.

    • When will there be more Channels in the future. And when will there be any irish Channels in the future as well like RTE 1 and 2, TV3 and TG4 etc as loads of irish people live in Great Britain?


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