Huge TV Shakeup Announced With A Freesat And Freeview Merger

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A potential earthquake is coming to the UK TV industry, as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 announce plans to merge Freesat and Digital UK (the company that operates Freeview).

The plans were announced today, and are conditional on receipt of merger control and regulatory approvals. Subject to those approvals, the merger is expected to close in a few months, and can bring with it big changes to how free TV works in the UK.

Established in 2002, Freeview is the United Kingdom’s terrestrial television platform. Freeview provides more than 80 free-to-air TV channels and radio stations.

Some of the channels can only be watched via a Freeview aerial (see the ones we recommend), and a Freeview box (see our recommendations) connected to that aerial and to your TV.

Manhattan t3-r
The Manhattan T3-R Freeview Box

Digital UK, a company owned jointly by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 (and previously Arqiva, who is stepping down this March), leads the development of Freeview and its digital streaming service, Freeview Play. It also holds the Ofcom licences to provide an Electronic Programme Guide.

Freesat was established in 2007 by the BBC and ITV, and offers more than 200 free-to-air TV channels and radio stations, all transmitted via digital satellite. To watch Freesat, you need a dish on your roof and a Freesat receiver (see our recommended Freesat boxes here).

Because Freesat uses satellite reception instead of the aerial waves, it is often a better solution in places where reception is bad.

Freesat 4K TV Boxes

The bulk selection of channels is identical between Freeview and Freesat, but there are some differences. Channel 4 HD, for example, was removed from Freesat a few years ago, while some channels are only available on Freesat and not on Freeview.

With both companies offering similar services – and owned by two of the same companies – having them operate separately was often questioned. This year, that situation may finally change.

The integration of Digital UK and Freesat, according to today’s announcement, “will help ensure viewers continue to have access to a range of free-to-view TV services in the UK as well as benefit from technological innovations and developments across the two services.”

Watching freesat in living room

“We welcome this opportunity to work more closely with Freesat”, said Jonathan Thompson, CEO of Digital UK, “Whilst continuing to deliver our mission of ensuring everyone in the UK can access a high-quality TV service for free.

“The combined entity will promote the very best of free-to-view content whilst reflecting the changing nature of consumer consumption.”

It’s still too early to say what possible changes this may bring to our screens. With Channel 4 also owning Freesat, would this bring Channel 4 HD and All4 back into the Freesat fold? Will the channel list become identical at some point?

More Freeview Changes Coming

Today’s announcement follows several big potential Freeview changes that were reported in recent months. 

The big one, which we told you about earlier this month, is the rumoured united UK streaming app, which would finally bring together the streaming services of all the major UK broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

Freeview Play smartphone and tablet 800

It was reported at the time that the discussions are being hosted by Freeview. Merging both the digital streaming services AND Freesat’s services into a single service, would potentially put UK broadcasters in a better position to fight the giant American streaming services like Netflix and Disney+.

In addition, late last year Digital UK published a public consultation, proposing to give Freeview’s HD channels priority over their SD versions, as well as automatically replacing over-the-air channels with their internet-streamed version, when reception is bad. 

This has the potential to finally turn the whole of Freeview into a streaming-based service, and end the myriad of complaints from users over bad reception. 

We will of course continue to follow this story as it unfolds throughout the year – so make sure you Subscribe to our free newsletter.

14 thoughts on “Huge TV Shakeup Announced With A Freesat And Freeview Merger”

  1. This would be a great opportunity to get rid of all the SD and +1 channels and instead concentrate on higher bitrate HD and 4K channels only. No need for +1 when you can just skip back in the EPG to stream older programmes. And if Sky don’t want to supply the HD versions of their news and arts channels then let them stick to their own platform.

    • I would guess that the terrestrial transmitters are to be phased out as
      all the TV channels move on line . Even the Astra one and two satellites which provide Freesat and all the European TV are looking outmoded.

    • Good luck teaching my 83 year old father how to “Skip Back in the EPG”

      People of a certain generation are mostly only able to work out volume up, volume down, channel up, channel down and the power button

    • Yes, the way Freeview reception works isn’t likely to change in the near future (though at some point they might finally make all the channels available via streaming – but that’s a different story)

  2. I have a 43 inch LG TV. It has built in FreeSat as well as Freeview. At the side of the TV is a USB port, I’ve yet to find a USB stick compatible to record too.

  3. Alan Plimmer is right, Freesat is in a mess. They froze out the excellent Humax and introduced their own rubbish box.
    Amongst other things, this box will only fast forward x32 whereas my Humax does x64. And they took out the advert zap button on the remote.
    Hopefully the merger will knock some heads together.

  4. Yes it all needs sorting. I have had Freesat for some years now. I originally had a Humax recorder which started displaying problems. So I purchased the new Freesat 4K 1tb box. Absolutely full of gremlins, so returned it after a couple of weeks. So I now have had to revert back to a refurbished Humax box, which are at a premium now and of course don’t have the recording capacity of the new Freesat boxes( 4 against 2). So I welcome any future merger if that brings improvements in operations of the boxes.
    At the moment they have to many glitches that weren’t apparent in the early stages. Maybe a tv with built in Freesat would be the answer.

  5. I have a Freesat box and dish.its ok but sometimes it records something I’ve set about 10 times All at once so fills up the recording space.most annoying!

  6. yes I had the same problem with the remote control I had BT YouView the remote for the BT YouView you was working the Freesat system and a freesat remote was working BT system on a separate channel ended up with the £93 plus bill because the Freesat remote was working the BT got rid of BT after trying to explain to them the problem as they do not have have a system to change the code on the BT remote tn11 said that I tried the the remote for the Freesat change the code but still had the problem working the BT YouView box needs a better system?

  7. Maybe they can get the remote recording function finally sorted out on Freesat app. It’s absolutely pathetic that one of the biggest selling points of Freesat, setting recordings from one’s phone, has been left unresolved for a good number of years. It’s the only reason I miss Sky.

  8. I have purchased Freesat system 4K 2TB because I’m in a poor area for aerial connection it would be nice to have have all channels available to both systems so that the viewer has the best possible viewing,? David


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