As another eventful year in the UK’s television landscape is coming to an end, 2023 stands out as a year of notable highs and lows.
While the steady march of price hikes continued to dominate headlines, the year also saw commendable holdouts like Paramount+ and Amazon’s Prime Video, refusing to jump on the price increase bandwagon.
Equally noteworthy was the announcement of Freely, a bold step towards Freeview-over-broadband, promising to blend the traditional with the modern in our viewing experience.
But 2023 wasn’t just about maintaining the status quo. It brought exciting developments like the transformation of BT Sport into TNT Sports, BT TV turning into EE TV, Roku’s move to offer budget-friendly Smart TVs in supermarkets, and more.
So, after we looked at the TV Blunders of 2023 – this time, we’re looking at all the good and exciting things that happened to TV services in the UK this year.
Streaming Services That Did NOT Raise Prices
With so many streaming services (and pay-TV platforms) raising their prices yearly, it’s rare to see services that DID NOT increase their price.
But yes, there were a few saints this year, including:
The American streaming service launched in the UK back in June 2021, and since then, its price point of £6.99/month or £69.90/year hasn’t gone up even once – and has occasionally even gone down with special offers (such as the one they’re currently offering, where you can get it for half price, either directly or via Amazon’s Prime Video Channels).
With hundreds of TV shows and a long list of classic and blockbuster films, Paramount+ is certainly not the biggest out there, but it has a premium – and substantial – library of content (but without any 4K content, sadly).
There are plans for a price increase in 2024 (possibly with the addition of an ad-supported tier) – but for now – we can praise them for not increasing their price since 2022.
While NOW did kick-off 2023 with a price increase on its Sky Sports membership, as well as on NOW Boost (which adds Full HD to the service) – prices of the Entertainment Membership and the Sky Cinema membership did not go up this year, remaining at £9.99/month, each.
You can also usually get them for even less, with ongoing discounts (though you do need to sign up for a minimum 6-month term for most of those discounts).
Amazon’s Prime Video
You can get Amazon’s major streaming service either on its own, for £5.99/month, or as part of the Amazon Prime subscription, which also adds free shipping and other benefits.
The last time Amazon bumped up the price of Amazon Prime was in September 2022 (to £8.99/month or £95/year). And even then, the price of the standalone Prime Video subscription did not go up – and it is still £5.99/month.
Sadly, in February 2024, Amazon is adding adverts to Prime Video – and those who wish to remove them, will have to pay an extra £2.99/month. But at least in 2023 – the prices remained the same.
The streaming service dedicated to lifestyle, factual and nature shows has three paid tiers and even a free tier.
In 2023, Discovery+ added the new Premium tier, which costs more (£29.99) but also adds TNT Sports (the successor to BT Sport).
But the pricing for the two other tiers – Entertainment (£3.99/month) and Entertainment+Sport (which includes Eurosport, at £6.99/month), remained the same.
It wasn’t all good news, as Discovery cancelled the annual option for Entertainment+Sport, which used to provide a discounted price of £59.99/year – but at least the monthly prices did not change.
There are lots of additional smaller streaming services that did not increase their pricing in 2023 (hayu, Lionsgate+ which is shutting down soon, Shudder, ITVX Premium, and many others) – so it wasn’t all bad news for our wallets this year.
Freely Announced: Freeview Over Broadband Is Coming
We’ve been waiting years for an official – and free – Freeview-over-broadband service, and in 2023 we… didn’t get it yet – but we finally got an announcement and some more details about it.
Developed by Everyone TV (formerly Digital UK, the body behind Freeview and Freesat) and backed by the UK’s leading broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 – Freely promises to blend live TV with the modern streaming era.
This service will deliver live TV over broadband, offering an innovative replacement for the traditional Freeview and Freesat services, though these services will continue to exist alongside Freely for the time being.
This shift from the traditional terrestrial TV model, which relies on a separate set-top box and an aerial or satellite connection, to a streaming-based model represents a significant change in how viewers consume television – and the end of patchy reception areas (though the new problem will be areas with patchy broadband services).
But, there’s a catch. Freely’s cutting-edge approach means it’ll only work on new TVs from 2024 onwards (with Hisense announced as the first partner), leaving those with older sets in the lurch.
This peculiar decision means you won’t be able to use your older Freeview boxes, your existing streaming sticks, or even your existing Freeview TVs – the only way to get Freely, at least at launch (from what we know so far), will be by buying a brand new, 2024 TV.
Hopefully, that will change in the future.
But despite the worries, Freely comes as great news to those who value Freeview / Freesat and free content – and has the potential, at least, to carry these sorts of services into the future.
Manhattan Reveals The New T4-R Freeview Recorder
Speaking of Freeview – 2023 was not a very good year for it, at least in terms of the old-school, Freeview recording market – as I covered before.
However, with older Freeview boxes being axed, some losing support for popular apps, and others being hard to find – there was a bit of good news, when Manhattan revealed more details about its upcoming T4 Freeview Play box and the T4-R Freeview Recorder.
So yes, it was supposed to come out in June, then it got delayed again, and again, and we’re now hoping to see it around February 2024 – but despite those delays, the fact Manhattan is pushing out an advanced, dedicated Freeview Recorder in this day and age, is good news for Freeview fans.
Roku Sells Cheap TVs In Supermarkets
In the early days of Smart TVs, while we were happy enough to just get streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer already baked in – actually using them felt pretty awful in most cases.
Yes, Smart TVs used to be slow, confusing – and still rather expensive – so the solution in many cases was to buy a cheap(ish) TV, and add a standalone streaming stick to it, like the Roku or Amazon Fire TV devices.
These days, we have Smart TVs that already have these popular Operating Systems – from Roku and Fire TV – already built-in. But many of them were still somewhat expensive.
In 2023, however, Roku started pushing cheap, Roku-based TVs out to the masses by selling them… in supermarkets and big retail chains.
Sky Mix’s Revamp
There weren’t a lot of major Freeview/Freesat additions this year (unless you count the countless Freeview channel numbering changes, that is).
This is why we were happy to hear about Sky’s revamp of its free Freeview/Freesat channel, Sky Pick.
Sky Mix, a rebranded version of the Sky Pick channel, offers a broader spectrum of content than its predecessor.
The channel aims to provide a diverse range of programming, including Sky originals, films, and premium shows without a subscription.
It features original factual specials, as well as acquired titles from Sky Atlantic and Sky Witness, including early seasons of popular shows like True Detective, The Equalizer, A Discovery of Witches and more.
Moreover, Sky Mix is the exclusive Freeview/Freesat home for Sky Original films, showcasing titles like “SAS: Red Notice” from the Sky Cinema library.
So yes, Sky Mix aims to be a showcase for Sky, with earlier seasons that are meant to tempt you into signing up for a Sky subscription. But, the bottom line is that if you DON’T have a Sky subscription – you’re getting some premium (albeit older) TV content for free.
EE TV Launch: Freeview Coming To Apple TV
Earlier this month, after months of anticipation, BT TV went through a major revamp – which was, at least for the TV part… mostly a major name change, from BT TV to EE TV – but also brought with it one significant addition – a collaboration with Apple TV.
This new EE TV service, while mirroring BT TV in terms of bundles and pricing, introduced a modern touch with the integration of an exclusive EE version of the Apple TV 4K box, alongside the long-running 4K TV Pro Freeview recorder box.
This custom Apple TV box is central to the EE TV experience, offering live Freeview channels and Freeview-over-broadband features, on a special Apple TV app, which is exclusive to the Apple TV box that comes with EE TV (along with a custom remote).
The many limitations (only working with EE broadband, only working on EE’s Apple TV, etc.) are disappointing, as the service isn’t really a standalone TV service and can’t fully compete with the likes of Sky Stream.
However, expanding the technology the pay-TV companies offer is a good thing, especially when it comes to an Apple TV collaboration, as competition between these companies is important – even if I usually recommend cord-cutting.
And any additional Freeview-over-broadband options are also good news – at least until we finally get Freely.
All Of Doctor Who Coming To BBC iPlayer
Doctor Who came back to our lives with a bang this year – but it wasn’t just about David Tennant and Ncuti Gatwa.
As of October, BBC iPlayer has become the go-to destination for Doctor Who fans, with the platform adding every episode of the classic series.
This inclusion means that viewers now have access to the entire catalogue of Doctor Who adventures, spanning from the show’s inception in 1963 to the modern episodes.
This comprehensive collection on BBC iPlayer offers a unique opportunity for both long-time fans and new viewers to explore the rich history of this iconic British sci-fi series.
And in an extra bit of good news – we got the 60th-anniversary specials – as well as the Christmas Special – in glorious Ultra HD (4K) on iPlayer.
BT Sport Becomes TNT Sports
In July, the sports broadcasting landscape in the UK underwent a significant change with the launch of TNT Sports, a merger between BT Sport and Discovery+/Eurosport.
This launch marked the end of an era for BT Sport, which had been a major player in UK sports broadcasting since 2013, and the start of a new chapter with TNT Sports.
The merger consolidated a wide range of sports content under Discovery+, offering an expanded array of sports coverage, including Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and more
While it remains to be seen how this change will affect the TV sports landscape in years to come, TNT Sports seems to have reinvigorated the sports broadcasting scene by introducing a mix of fresh and familiar faces in its presenting team.
High-profile additions like Laura Woods, a two-time SJA British Sports Journalism Awards Sports Presenter of the Year, have joined the team, hosting major events like the UEFA Champions League and live boxing fight nights
The pricing for TNT Sports remained consistent with BT Sport’s previous pricing model, set at £29.99/month for standalone subscribers.
This price also includes access to the Discovery+ Entertainment and Sports plan, encompassing a broader range of content beyond sports, including Discovery’s lifestyle, factual, and reality shows, and Eurosport’s content.
A few smaller wins that made us happy in 2023:
Channel 4 App Returned To Freesat: After an absence of more than five years, Channel 4’s streaming app (previously known as All4), finally returned to Freesat’s boxes this year – although only to the newer, 4K boxes.
Netflix Adds Downloads To The Ad-Supported Tier: With more and more streaming companies launching ad-supported tiers, it was refreshing to see Netflix actually innovating – and adding the ability to download shows for offline viewing, even if you’re on the ad-supported tier (the adverts get downloaded along with the show).
Roku’s Interface Revamp: Roku’s biggest update in years, introduced a more personalised experience with the new “What to Watch” feature. This enhancement, making content discovery easier, was a significant step in improving the user experience, ensuring Roku remains competitive and appealing, without changing its core interface too much.
Profiles On Sky Glass And Stream: To this day, Sky Q doesn’t have separate profiles, and neither does Sky’s streaming service – NOW. But, in early 2023, we finally got separate profiles (sort of) on Sky Glass and Stream. While they’re not completely separate, we did finally get the ability to save separate watchlists for every member of the family.
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