Freeview is the UK’s most popular subscription-free way of watching television – by simply plugging an aerial into your TV you can watch around 80 live TV channels and listen to dozens of radio channels.
Even better, some of the UK’s biggest channels, including BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, are available in High Definition so long as you have a compatible TV.
Freeview Play takes things a step further and combines the free to air channels with internet powered catch-up apps such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4 and My5, which let you watch programmes you might have missed.
How do I get Freeview Play?
Freeview Play comes built into many of the most popular televisions currently available in the UK, if you have a compatible model all you need to do is plug your aerial into your TV and connect the TV to your broadband.
If your telly doesn’t have Freeview Play built-in, the service can be easily added by connecting a Freeview Play set top box to it. There are two versions of set top box – the cheapest give you access to the live channels and catch-up apps, but the more expensive models also let you record programmes.
The Freeview website contains a list of all the compatible TVs and boxes.
What can I watch on Freeview Play?
The live channels you’ll receive will depend on where you live in the UK. The Freeview website has a handy tool which you can use to see what’s available in your area.
In addition to the live channels, you also get apps such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My5, BBC Sounds, STV Player, and UKTV Play which Freeview says offer “over 40,000″ hours of free on demand TV.
While lots of this is catch-up content (programmes which have been recently shown on a live channel), some of the apps also offer boxsets of older programmes and some new shows which they’ve bought exclusively to stream.
In addition, the BBC uses iPlayer to offer selected programmes, including some of its flagship nature documentaries, new dramas and some live sport, in 4K Ultra High Definition for those with compatible devices.
Freeview has created a special page (found on channel 100 on your programme guide) which highlights some of the shows available across the various apps, and you can also use the channel to search for specific programmes.
Catch-up shows can also be played directly from the programme guide which, as well as letting you see what’s coming up over the week ahead, lets you navigate backwards through the last seven days.
If a previously shown programme is available on catch-up, the guide will show a ‘play’ icon next to its title – pressing OK on your remote will launch the relevant catch-up app and start playing the programme.
Catch-up content is normally available for at least 30 days, though on iPlayer shows can be available for up to a year. Boxsets on the various services are often available for extended periods.
Is it really free?
Yes, once you’ve bought your Freeview Play TV or set top box there’s no other cost involved in watching.
Commercial broadcasters include adverts in their catch-up shows which helps fund their services and both ITV and All4 offer the option to remove the adverts in return for paying a small monthly fee, but this is entirely optional.
What about Netflix and other pay apps?
Lots of Freeview Play TVs, and even some set top boxes, also include access to paid apps including Netflix, Prime Video and BritBox, but these aren’t part of the Freeview Play service which is all about subscription-free telly.