BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to launch 'online Freeview' in 2024

UK PSBs to launch ‘online Freeview’ in 2024

Britain’s major public-service broadcasters (PSBs) will launch a free, Internet-only TV service next year for broadband-only homes.

The new service, called Freely, will be built-in to the next generation of smart TVs in the UK upon launch in 2024 and feature a line-up of PSB content and other free-to-air channels.

It will aim to replicate the terrestrial TV experience, building on the Freeview TV platform that currently used in 16 million homes. Freely is being developed by Everyone TV, the organisation which runs free TV services Freeview and Freesat in the UK and is jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

It marks the first time that British viewers will be able to browse and watch live TV channels together with on-demand content streamed to their smart TV via the Internet for free.

The broadcasters’ internet-protocol (IP) channels are also available on dedicated linear TV subscription services, such as Sky Stream and Virgin Stream, as well as within broadcasters’ video-on-demand apps such as BBC iPlayer and ITVX.

However, Freely has pledged that viewers will be able to “seamlessly” browse channels through a “modern and intuitive” programme guide, and use functions that are designed to make it easier to find and explore new shows directly from live TV.

PSB CEOs: ‘Deepening our collaboration’

EveryoneTV rebranded from Digital UK in January, having merged with Freesat in 2021 to bring the UK’s two free-to-view TV services now under the leadership of one organisation. Freeview, which allows people to receive digital TV transmissions via analogue aerials, was launched in 2002 as a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky.

The Freeview platform is managed by Digital UK Ltd and DTV Services. The companies have three common shareholders: BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, while the UK’s biggest pay-TV operator Sky is a shareholder in DTV Services.

Jonathan Thompson, CEO of Everyone TV, said the purpose of launching Freely 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.”

Director-general of the BBC, Tim Davie, said: “Ensuring the universality of public-service television is sustained into the future is of paramount importance to the UK and all its public service broadcasters. We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration in helping viewers access our content, ensuring that, in a digital age, we deliver value for all audiences and that no one is left behind.”

Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, said: “As more and more UK households use internet-connected TVs, it’s critical that the public service broadcaster channels remain available and easy for them to find. This new collaboration enables the UK public to continue to get all of their favourite British TV channels, for free — just as Freeview did at the advent of digital TV. Alongside the important reforms set out in the draft Media Bill it will help PSBs to continue to thrive for years to come.”

Alex Mahon, CEO, Channel 4, said: “Streaming TV is increasingly the new normal for audiences, particularly young viewers, so it has never been more important for trusted PSB content to be readily available to everyone, for free. We look forward to working closely with our PSB partners so that when the Media Bill’s prominence provisions become law, the technology to make Britain’s favourite TV shows easy to find will already be in place.”

And Maria Kyriacou, president of Broadcast & Studios, International Markets at Channel 5’s owner Paramount, said: “We know that British audiences continue to have a strong appetite for the high quality, relevant and impartial content provided by our UK public service broadcasters such as Channel 5. This new collaboration across the PSBs will ensure that, as these viewers continue to shift to IP enabled televisions, they continue to have an easy way to access the channels and content they know and love.”

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