Digital TV service Freeview will be launching a new product that will introduce a mass market connected TV offer. Freeview Play is due to launch later this year and will give viewers ‘the freedom to choose the programmes they want, when they want’, it is promised.
Freeview is managed by DTV Services, a company owned and run by shareholders BBC, Sky, Channel 4, ITV and Arqiva. Freeview Play will combine catch-up TV services from these companies – BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and All 4 (the new digital brand from Channel 4 which will replace 4oD from the end of Q1 2015), with on-demand and live television. Viewers will be able to search for programmes by either using the scroll back function in the TV guide or the apps page.
Freeview Play will be free from subscription, available in a range of new TVs and boxes and enabled with any existing broadband service. Freeview has undergone a rebrand in preparation of the launch of its new service, as Guy North, Freeview managing director, explained: “Our new brand identity is bold and contemporary and will stand out in what is a very crowded TV market.”
He continued: “Freeview has been built on a vision to make television available to all free from subscription. In the same way that we took the UK from analogue to digital, Freeview Play is the next step in that vision and it will put the viewer in control, without complexity, commitment or unnecessary cost we want to keep television fair and open for everyone. That means giving consumers the freedom to choose the TV they want, the way they want it.”
Keith Underwood, Freeview chairman described Freeview’s new identity as “an important moment in Freeview’s history.” Adding that Freeview’s shareholders are “fully committed to supporting Freeview’s journey to bring connected television to millions of homes in the UK.”
Digital UK is working in partnership with Freeview to develop Freeview Play. The company is leading on technical development of the new service, including product specification, the creation of a metadata service and a test regime for TVs and set-top boxes. The company also manages strategy, policy and service development for digital terrestrial television (DTT) in the UK and provides day-to-day technical management of the Freeview Electronic Programme Guide (EPG).
The new service was first announced in June last year, and Ilse Howling, previously managing director of Freeview, was appointed to the role of managing director, Connected TV at Digital UK. She is currently leading the dedicated team to develop the product specification for the new service working in co-operation with manufacturers and industry bodies and based on open standards. At the time of the initial announcement, a list of aims for the hybrid IP/DTT proposition was released, and stated that Freeview Play would: ‘Establish a technical specification in consultation with manufacturers which embraces Freeview HD and HbbTV’; ‘Deliver a consolidated cross platform metadata stream’; and ‘Establish a set of rules and guidelines for user interface and content presentation’.
Ninety million Freeview TVs and boxes have been sold over the last 11 years, including over ten million Freeview HD units. According to Digital UK and Freeview DTT is the UK’s leading platform, used on 11 million primary sets, and the companies hope that a new hybrid service will ensure that Freeview remains the UK’s largest TV platform.
The ability to access connected services on your TV, and scroll backwards though the previous weeks content is available to customers of Virgin Media, Sky and similar offerings. Freeview Play now makes these benefits accessible to a wider audience, being free from subscription charges, as Howling commented: “The company is well placed to develop the next generation specification and work with the supply chain to support a new, mass market service to make connected TV available free, for everyone.”