(Cybertech) – Freeview Play is Freeview, but not as you know it.
Like YouView/BT TV, Freeview Play embraces online content alongside linear TV. There’s now also a Freeview Play mobile app that offers on-demand TV directly within its electronic programme guide, so you don’t have to hunt through individual catch-up apps.
To help you get to grips with what Freeview Play offers and when and where you might see it, we’ve put together this quick and handy guide.
What is Freeview Play?
Basic Freeview is the free-to-air digital TV offering for the vast majority of UK television sets and an equally large number of set-top boxes. It offers many standard definition channels, HD channels and Freeview+ as a standard for personal video recording.
Freeview Play adds connected services to the mix so that, within the EPG, you are able to scroll back through the last seven days of programming and select shows to watch streamed over the internet that you might have missed. Over 11 million devices have so far been sold featuring the UK-focused technology.
The technology is an open standard, which means manufacturers can skin the experience any way they like, as long as they stick to the agreed standards: the Freeview Play branding must remain prominent, for example.
What devices is Freeview Play available on?
Freeview has partnerships with a number of hardware manufacturers, including those that make TVs and set-top boxes. Manufacturers include Panasonic, LG, Philips, Sony, Toshiba, Manhattan and Hisense.
You can see a full list of Freeview Play-enabled devices released so far here
There are no costs associated with Freeview Play beyond what it costs to buy the equipment. So unlike Sky or Virgin Media, there are no subscriptions, as everything is free to air, or free to use on catch-up.
What services does Freeview Play offer?
Freeview Play offers integrated access to the major UK TV catch-up services: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5 and the UK TV Play app. UK TV lets you catch-up on programmes from Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama. There’s also catch-up content from CBS’ UK channels including CBS Reality. You can also now get content from BBC Sounds including access to the BBC’s 50 radio stations and on-demand content.
Freeview Play offers 20,000 hours of free catch-up TV content (not including live TV) according to the organisation behind it who also says that Amazon Prime offers a close 22,600 hours and Now TV 12,600 hours.
And that’s in addition to the standard Freeview list of channels – there are now 70 TV channels, 15 HD channels at no cost and over 25 radio stations available on the platform.
Freeview Play doesn’t offer separate streaming apps such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
However, there’s also nothing to stop manufacturers including additional services in their own Smart platforms, which provides a degree of differentiation between those supplying the hardware.
For example, Humax includes Netflix on its Freeview Play boxes, whereas TVs adopting Freeview Play will offer plenty of other Smart TV services outside of the Freeview Play experience. LG for example, has the full webOS smart TV platform alongside the Freeview Play functions.
Freeview Explore is a service that gives you the best daily content from the on-demand channels available on Freeview Play. It has its own tab in the main Freeview Play menu and splits recommended content into 10 categories.
Content isn’t based on your viewing habits though, but rather is determined by the broadcasters themselves, so you’re more likely to find niche content.
Freeview now has a mobile app enabling you to stream live from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 and access on-demand content from BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, and UKTV Play. The app has no subscription so you can use it even if you don’t have a Freeview Play set top box or TV.
New features in the app include Plan my week enabling you to curate your own personal watch list, a recently viewed section and quick search for favourite channels.
For the visually and hearing impaired. Freeview Play is also rolling out an accessible TV guide later in 2020 via channel 555. It’ll include text to speech, screen magnification and content filtering in addition to a high contrast UI if needed.
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Writing by Rik Henderson and Dan Grabham.