Freeview’s Streaming Revolution: BBC Channels Go Digital

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In a significant move that may signal a new era for Freeview, the BBC is poised to change the way we consume its channels.

The broadcasting giant is set to start streaming some of its Freeview channels via the internet next week, marking a departure from traditional over-the-air broadcasting that requires an aerial.

This development comes on the heels of a series of changes the BBC has recently implemented on its channel lineup on certain Freeview devices. High-definition (HD) content is now front and centre, making it more accessible and intuitive for viewers than ever before.

Now, the BBC is ready to take the next big step: Streaming Channels. On July 24, the BBC is set to launch IP (Internet Protocol) streams of some of its regular HD broadcast channels on newer Freeview Play models (see the full list of supported devices below).

This means that, for the first time, viewers will be able to watch these channels directly via broadband, via the “regular” Freeview EPG – and without an aerial.

Couple watching smart tv

This marks a significant shift in the way we consume television content, and it’s only the beginning.

The BBC Switching On Streaming Channels

On July 24, the BBC is set to take a significant leap forward by launching IP (Internet Protocol) streams of some of its regular HD broadcast channels on newer Freeview Play models.

New Freeview Play 2022 mockup
Freeview Play

This means that viewers will be able to watch these channels directly via broadband, via the Freeview EPG, marking a significant shift in the way we consume television content.

These new IP BBC channels will be listed in a separate section of the Freeview guide (on supported devices). The channel numbers are as follows:

  • BBC Three HD: Channel 301
  • BBC Scotland HD: Channel 302
  • BBC ALBA HD: Channel 303
  • BBC News HD: Channel 501
  • BBC Parliament HD: Channel 502

These particular channels were chosen with the aim of filling in gaps for those HD channels that are not currently carried everywhere in the UK on over-the-air Freeview.

BBC News on TV screen 1200

This is typically because the BBC may not have HD capacity in every region of the UK or, in the case of BBC News HD, third-party broadcast capacity was withdrawn.

On supported devices, these streaming channels will appear in the EPG just like the other channels on Freeview, but they will be delivered through the internet (by opening up BBC iPlayer) rather than through an aerial.

BBC IP Channels: What Does This Mean?

In simple terms, IP streaming is a method of delivering and receiving television content over the internet, rather than through traditional terrestrial, satellite, or cable television formats – so just like the content you get from streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+.

For the BBC and Freeview, this is a significant development because it means that viewers can watch these channels without needing an aerial.

Man repairing outdoor roof aerial antenna 800

Of course, with the BBC, this was already possible by using BBC iPlayer – but having the streaming versions of these channels “baked” into the normal Freeview EPG and channel surfing, is a big step in making these channels more accessible for households without aerial reception.

This is important because it represents the first step towards a future where all Freeview channels, starting with the BBC, could potentially be watched without an aerial.

This could make television more accessible to people who, for various reasons, may not have access to a traditional television aerial. 

Sky Glass TV Guide
Freeview On Sky Glass

For now, this is only possible via pay-TV streaming devices such as Sky Glass, Sky Stream and Virgin Media Stream – but even those only carry some, but not all, of the existing Freeview / Freesat channels.

Streaming BBC Channels: The Downsides

While the shift towards IP streaming brings with it many advantages, it’s important to note that there are also some downsides to consider.

One of the key limitations of streaming channels is that they do not offer the same functionality as traditional broadcast channels.

For instance, viewers cannot record shows on streaming channels, a feature that many have come to rely on with traditional broadcasting.

Manhattan T3-R Recordings screen
Manhattan T3-R Freeview Recordings

So while many programmes remain available to watch via catch-up services (BBC iPlayer in this case) – you won’t be able to record them on a Freeview Recorder Box. Therefore, if a show is removed from iPlayer – there’s no way for you to watch it again (or keep it indefinitely).

This has been an ongoing complaint for people moving from Sky Q – with its built-in recording, to streaming devices like Sky Stream and Sky Glass, which can’t directly record streaming channels (at least in some cases).

Furthermore, the BBC’s IP channels will not offer red/green button access, a feature that provides additional information or interactive services related to the programme being watched.

Also, IP channels do not support series linking, a popular feature that allows viewers to automatically record all future episodes of a particular show on Freeview recorders.

This lack of functionality may limit the overall viewing experience for some users who are accustomed to these features.

It’s important to note, however, that for the time being (at least), the BBC’s new IP channels are in addition to the regular over-the-air channels, that will remain on their usual channel numbers (for those with adequate aerial reception, of course).

Does My TV Support The New BBC Streaming Channels?

Not all TVs and Freeview devices will be able to take advantage of the new BBC IP channels, as they will only show up on newer (as in, from 2020 onwards) Freeview Play devices, that support Freeview Play’s Channel List Management technology.

The popular Manhattan T3-R and T3 Freeview boxes, for example, don’t support this – but their upcoming newer models (the T4 and T4-R models) will support this technology.

Manhattan T4-R remote official
Manhattan T4-R

Therefore, if your box or Freeview Play TV doesn’t support the Channel List Management feature – nothing will change for you, and you won’t be able to access the new streaming-based BBC channels.

To check if your TV can carry the new IP streams, go to Channel 100 (the ‘Freeview Explore’ service) on your Freeview Play device.

Then, select “Help and Settings” and check the “Freeview Play platform ID” in the bottom right corner of the screen.

If your TV’s ID is on the list of compatible IDs, your TV should be able to handle the swapping when connected to the internet. Here’s the full list:

Freeview Play platform IDTV Brand – Year of release
HI21-2KHisense – 2021
HI21-4KHisense, Loewe (by Loewe) – 2021
HI22-962KHisense – 2022
HI22-964KHisense – 2022
HI22-99Hisense – 2022
HI23-96Hisense – 2023
LG22-F22LG – 2022
LG22-K8APLG – 2022
LG22-K8HPLG – 2022
LG22-K8LPLG – 2022
LG22-LM21ANLG – 2022
LG22-O22LG – 2022
LG23-K8HPPLG – 2023
LG23-K8LPNLG – 2023
LG23-LM21ANNLG – 2023
LG23-M23LG – 2023
LG23-O22NLG – 2023

As long as the TV is connected to the internet, the streams will appear in the EPG from July 24 – though a retune may be required.

If you disconnect your TV from the internet, the IP streams will ultimately stop being listed, and you will not be able to access these services without reconnecting to the internet and retuning yet again.

The following devices will get the IP streams after a firmware update later this year:

  • Bush, Digihome, Hitachi, JVC, Panasonic, Toshiba – 2020 (V20-MB180G31)
  • Bush, Digihome, EGL, Luxor, Nordmende, Polaroid, Solas, Techwood, Toshiba, Walker – 2020 (V20-MB180G32)
  • Altimo, Bush, Digihome, EGL, Hitachi, JVC, Logik, Luxor, Medion, Mitchell & Brown, Nordmende, Panasonic, Polaroid, Techwood, Toshiba, Visitech, Walker – 2020 (V20-MB181)
  • Amazon Fire TV – 2021 (V21-AFTVBX, V21-AFTVJ)

The Future of Freeview

As we previously reported, the future of UK television is set to undergo a significant transformation with the introduction of the Next Generation Platform (NGP) by Everyone.TV, the company behind Freeview and Freesat.

Couple watching TV futuristic streaming
Illustrative Photo (For now…)

This platform is designed to redefine the delivery of free TV in the UK, integrating traditional broadcasting with the increasingly popular streaming services.

The NGP, currently under consultation, will incorporate a modernised Electronic Programme Guide that not only allows access to linear TV channels but also offers closer integration with broadcasters’ on-demand services.

TV with streaming services BBC iPlayer

This means that viewers will be able to effortlessly switch between streamed live TV and catch-up content, enhancing the overall viewing experience.

Next week’s changes by the BBC, can be seen as a first step towards this future. By offering Freeview channels via the internet, the BBC is embracing the shift towards IP streaming, paving the way for a more integrated and user-friendly viewing experience.

This move aligns with the Next Generation Platform’s vision of a future where TV is based more on streaming and less on traditional over-the-air broadcasts.

In essence, the BBC’s move and the upcoming NGP represent a significant step towards a future where viewers have more control over what they watch, when they watch it, and how they access it – without needing aerials and satellite dishes.

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