Hisense has been named as the first launch partner for Freely, the new broadband TV service being developed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
Announced earlier this year and set to debut in 2024, the subscription-free service will allow live channels to be watched on compatible TVs via a traditional programme guide without the need for either an aerial or satellite dish.
Hisense will launch its first Freely models next year and has agreed a five-year deal to support the service which is being overseen by Everyone TV, a company jointly owned by the four broadcasters.
In addition to live channels, Freely will offer access to catch-up content just as Freeview Play – which the broadcasters also jointly own – already does.
Despite the broadcasters hailing it as “game-changing,” the need for a new service is unclear as multiple TV makers – including Samsung and Hisense – already offer streamed versions of free channels from their existing programme guides and could include channels from Freely’s backers if permitted.
In addition, live TV viewing is in “long-term decline” according to media regulator Ofcom which estimates that it now accounts for just 44% of all viewing as UK audiences increasingly move to watching via catch-up and subscription apps.
Deep Halder, Chief Commercial Officer at Everyone TV, said: “We’re delighted that Hisense is partnering with us to bring Freely to market in the UK.
“Building on our long history of working together successfully, we are excited to be bringing the first free aggregated live and on demand TV experience to British viewers, built into Hisense’s next-gen Smart TVs.
“We look forward to announcing further partners ahead of launch to ensure Freely will be available on a wide range of TVs at differing price points, offering viewers the choice to future-proof their TV purchase.”
Howard Grindrod, Vice President of Hisense UK, added: “We’re proud to be leading the way and becoming the first TV manufacturers to bring Freely to the UK market. We’re always looking to enhance our product offering and find new ways to add value to our consumers, and this partnership with Freely does just that.”