Freely, the future of TV from BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5

Freely, the new free streaming service set to be launched in Q2 2024, and brought to you by UK public service broadcasters, is set to shape the future of UK TV.

Freely is the new free streaming service brought to you by Britain’s public service broadcasters, delivering live TV over broadband. Set to launch in the second quarter of 2024, the service promises a similar experience to the likes of Sky Stream.

This joint venture is to be delivered by Everyone TV, the organisation behind Freeview and Freesat, and formed in collaboration with BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. Research shows that more than half of UK homes will be watching TV exclusively over broadband by 2030, which is driving this decision to futureproof TV.

We’ve hit the tipping point: the way we communicate has changed. The way we stay current with what’s happening in the world has too. Most importantly, the way we watch TV has changed amid continuous technological advancement.

Telly, what a beautiful word, huh? Once the real star of the show, the only object able to assemble crowds of any size, silently sat at the heart of the room, magnetised by a screen and its many hours of programming. Now a slimmer, sexier, almost cordless addition to the minimalistic furniture of modern houses.

Freely: the headlines

Long-awaited, highly anticipated, the brand-new Freely platform was finally unveiled, earlier this week. We wrote about it a few months ago, with very little detail to refer to. Now, the picture seems clearer:

  • More than half of UK homes will watch TV exclusively via broadband by 2030.
  • Freely brings live and on-demand content together, all in one place, and for free.
  • For the first time on a free service, viewers will be able to switch seamlessly between live and non-live content, from the four leading UK public service broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5).

All in all, it’s a no-brainer: Freely will represent the next phase of TV in the United Kingdom, paving the runway for the final convergence between linear and digital distribution of content.

Better UI, please

The user experience remains central. And to satisfy a hungry audience, the new platform has been conceived to showcase the best of the best content – from different sources – all on one screen.  

Not without a few interesting new features. Like the MiniGuide (a pop-up interface expected to appear every time a user switches channels), the Browse function (press the Freely button on the remote and explore curated recommendations for live and on-demand content), and the classic TV Guide (which will now offer audiences a chance to discover more episodes and on demand content, all from the comfortable and familiar guide).

A landscape image showing the user interface of Freely on Hisense smart TV screens, including a view of the main scree

Telly, just smarter

There are still a few question marks, as Freely gets prepped for its launch in Q2 this year. Will the current ecosystem of Smart TVs be Freely-ready, at launch? Ish.  

Hisense was the first manufacturer to sign up to make Freely TV sets. Vestel, behind 20+ TV brands, has also been revealed as a Smart TV partner to offer Freely on its devices. The aggregated data for the two manufacturers account for nearly 50% of the UK market share across Hybrid platforms*, projecting Freely to be in the best possible position at launch. But wait, there’s more.

The table is being set for the major PSBs, of course, but also for a variety of other content partners, to be announced in the coming weeks. Everyone TV, the entity that’s leading the evolution of free TV in the country, is also working with UKTV to bring its portfolio of channels over to Freely. This collaboration will solve the challenges UKTV has had in reaching IP-only homes.

Digital Transformation for Broadcasters, a new era

We covered digital transformation for broadcasters in the past few weeks, but now it’s clear that the entire TV ecosystem is headed this way too.  

Freely represents the gateway to the post-broadcast era, where the line that separates linear distribution and IP-only is thinner than ever and will ultimately fade away. An era built on clouds and fibre – as opposed to boxes, cables, and dishes – one that introduces us to a future of aggregated content, accessible by anyone from the tip of a finger.

It’s been talked about for years, but now the future of TV is clearly IP.  

* Data collected from Simplestream’s set of data analytics tools