The UK’s public service broadcasters (PSBs) – ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the BBC – have announced plans for a new broadband delivered TV service dubbed Freely.
Set to launch next year, the service will replicate the feel and experience of existing terrestrial services, including an electronic programme guide (EPG) and the ability to flick between channels.
Although the PSBs offer streamed versions of their channels through their catch-up apps on most devices, viewers who want to access them through a single EPG can currently only do so via pay services, including Sky’s Glass and Stream products and BT TV.
Freely is being developed by Everyone TV, a company owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 which is responsible for running free TV platforms in the UK.
Despite a growing shift from traditional viewing to on-demand and streaming, the free to air broadcasters have been slow to fully embrace changes in how viewers are accessing content – Channel 5 still only offers its My5 catch-up service in Standard Definition on most platforms and ITV only made the switch to HD last December.
For its part, the BBC fails to make its channels available via the EPG on Amazon’s range of Fire TV streaming devices and also withholds its 4K UHD content from many popular devices including several 4K-capable Fire TV models and the Apple TV set top box.
Many Smart TVs currently on the market, including those from Samsung and Hisense, already offer linear channels over broadband. However, rather than harness these and existing streaming devices from Apple, Amazon and Roku, it’s expected that Freely will require viewers to buy a new TV to access the service.
Everyone TV CEO, Jonathan Thompson, said: “This new development is a reflection of the fact that a growing number of UK viewers are watching content online, but still want easy access to the shared experience of live TV.”
“Our aim 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. Every one of us should be able to share in the best of British ideas and creativity on TV.”