In a landscape where Freeview recorders have long been the UK’s go-to solution for capturing live television, a sudden scarcity has left consumers scratching their heads.
Popular models like the Manhattan T3-R and the Humax FVP-5000T have been discontinued this year, leaving a gaping hole in the market. But that’s not the end of the story – even the much-anticipated new releases, such as Manhattan’s T4-R, are facing frustrating delays.
What’s driving this decline? Is the rise of streaming services like the upcoming Freeview replacement, Freely, sounding the death knell for traditional Freeview recorders? Not so fast.
While streaming may be the future, it lacks one significant feature that has made Freeview recorders a staple in British households: the ability to record live programmes.
As we navigate this transitional period in television consumption, some consumers are left in a dilemma – stick with dwindling Freeview options or leap into a streaming future that’s not quite a perfect fit for them.
And yet, more and more of our readers have been noticing that it’s almost impossible to buy a new Freeview recorder at the moment (unless you’re willing to pay crazy prices) – so here are some of the reasons.
The Disappearance Of The Manhattan T3-R
Earlier this year, the Manhattan T3-R, a highly acclaimed Freeview recorder, was discontinued.
Launched in 2019, the T3-R quickly became a favourite among Freeview users, thanks to its advanced recording features, excellent picture quality, and user-friendly interface.
The discontinuation was a significant moment for Manhattan, a UK-based company with a long history of manufacturing TV set-top boxes. The T3-R was particularly well-received, even earning the title of “Editor’s Choice” on Cord Busters’ list of the best Freeview Boxes.
The discontinuation was part of Manhattan’s strategy to make way for its next-generation Freeview boxes, the T4 and T4-R.
However, the launch of these new models has been fraught with delays. Initially slated for a July release, the launch was pushed to August and then further delayed to late October.
This has left a gap in the market, as the T3-R is no longer available, and the T4-R is yet to be released.
For existing T3-R users, the good news is that Manhattan will continue to support the device with software updates.
However, the ongoing delays have undoubtedly frustrated those keen on upgrading their Freeview experience, especially given the promising features of the T4 and T4-R models.
The End Of The Road For Humax FVP-5000T
Another significant blow to the Freeview recorder market was the recent discontinuation of the Humax FVP-5000T.
Launched in 2017, this device was well-regarded for its triple tuners, allowing users to record up to four programmes while watching a fifth. It also offered generous storage options, ranging from 500GB to 2TB.
The device was an early adopter of Freeview Play, seamlessly integrating live TV with catch-up and on-demand services.
However, the FVP-5000T started showing its age in recent years: it lost support for ITV Hub in 2022 and never supported ITV’s new streaming service, ITVX.
This left many users in a lurch, especially those who had recently purchased the device.
Humax’s only remaining Freeview recorder, the Humax Aura, is also facing stock issues, further limiting options for consumers, and for the past few weeks, it’s been very hard to find (though Humax has told us this issue should be resolved soon).
The bottom line? the discontinuation of both the Manhattan T3-R and the Humax FVP-5000T has left a significant gap in the market for Freeview recorders.
The Future: Streaming And ‘Freely’
The future of television in the UK is undeniably tilting towards streaming, as evidenced by the upcoming launch of Freely.
This new service is a new initiative developed by Everyone TV, the organisation jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5.
Set to launch in 2024, Freely aims to redefine how British viewers consume television by delivering live TV over broadband.
Freely is being positioned as the streaming successor to Freeview and Freesat, although these traditional platforms will continue to function alongside Freely – at least for a time.
The service promises to provide millions of homes with easy access to live TV channels and on-demand content, all streamed directly to their Smart TVs (it’s still unknown whether Freely will support other streaming devices as an app).
The service is expected to 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.
However, there’s a crucial element that Freely is likely to lack: a recording function.
One of the main attractions of Freeview recorders has been the ability to record live programmes for later viewing (or for advert skipping).
This feature has been particularly useful for those who have busy schedules or want to archive their favourite shows.
The absence of a recording function in Freely could be a significant drawback for many consumers, making it an incomplete replacement for traditional Freeview recorders.
In fact, one of the main complaints I still hear about Sky Glass and Sky Stream – Sky’s broadband-based streaming devices, that already stream Freeview via the internet – is that they can’t directly record most channels.
While streaming services (like the upcoming Freely) offer the convenience of watching on-demand, they often lack the personalisation and control that come with recording live TV.
For instance, streaming platforms may remove content after a certain period, or they may not offer all the episodes of a particular series.
In contrast, recording allows viewers to keep content for as long as they like, offering a sense of ownership that streaming services can’t match.
So, while Freely represents a significant step towards the future of television consumption in the UK, it’s not a full replacement for the waning Freeview Recorders market.
As we move further into the streaming era, it remains to be seen whether a solution that combines the best of both worlds – live streaming and recording – will emerge to fill the gap left by traditional Freeview recorders – but it doesn’t look like we’re headed in that direction.
Will I Be Able To Buy A Freeview Recorder?
The scarcity of new Freeview recorders is a complex issue, influenced by multiple factors such as technological advancements, market dynamics, and consumer preferences.
And, in light of the current scarcity of Freeview recorders, some sellers are capitalising on the situation by inflating prices, sometimes to double or more of the original cost. We strongly advise against purchasing these devices at such exorbitant rates.
But, to end on a positive note for Freeview recording fans – the Manhattan T4-R Freeview recorder is still expected to launch in a few weeks despite all the delays (and yes, it may get delayed again… but we’ll get it, eventually).
And the Humax Aura, as far as we know, is still expected to return with regular stock.
So Freeview recording options will be back on the table soon – but don’t expect them to stay around forever.
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