Remember Freeview boxes? The add-on you got to replace your when analogue TV was switched off sometime in the dark ages? No? Well, think yourself fortunate that you are young. Freeview first appeared 20 years ago as the default digital TV service to replace the retiring analogue signals and remains a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 plus Channel 5 and Sky. And now been superseded by Freeview Play, which is appearing as a default inside many new 4K TVs sold in the UK.
The Freeview Play service launched in 2015. While Freeview was received over your TV aerial alone, Freeview Play is essentially an on-demand internet-connected service that’s integrated into TVs and other devices. It has its own programme guide but its key benefit is that it aggregates content from all various free-to-watch services. Now, this is in a similar way that Sky Q or Sky Stream does but without the involvement of paid-for services. Having thousands of shows in one place is a big time saver compared to jumping in and out of multiple apps.
Freeview has recently announced that it now has a whopping 60,000 hours of free-to-watch on-demand content within Freeview Play. The service brings together all the major UK TV channel catch-up offerings.
How can you get Freeview Play?
The service is built into most new UK TVs, including those from LG, Panasonic, Sony and Hisense. If you watch TV through an aerial, just head to channel 100. It’s also its own app, too, available on Android TV, Humax and Amazon Fire TV devices and streaming sticks. Over 15 million Freeview-capable devices have so far been sold.
Freeview Play has supported mobile devices since 2019 and you can now browse and watch your favourite shows on the go using the Explore Freeview Play app.
Note that in theory, you don’t need a TV Licence to watch many on demand services: “You don’t need a licence if you only ever watch on demand or catch up programmes on services other than BBC iPlayer” says the official UK TV Licencing site.
What’s on Freeview Play?
The key thing that you can do on Freeview Play is search for what you want – there are also personalised recommendations while you can curate watch lists. There’s also a new dedicated Box Sets section, putting the most binge-worthy content in one place – there are over 1500 box sets available. All content is available in HD where possible.
Freeview Play provides access to over 80 live TV channels and eleven on-demand players; BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All 4, My5, UKTV Play, CBS Catchup Channels UK, Legend, STV Player, POP Player, PBS America, and BBC Sounds. Note that not all devices will be compatible with ITVX.