Britain’s public service broadcasters (PSBs) are developing a new free TV service that will deliver live TV over broadband.
Set for launch in 2024, the service, called Freely, will allow viewers to browse and watch live TV channels together with on-demand content streamed to their smart TV via the internet. Freely will be built-in to the next generation of smart TVs and feature a lineup of public service broadcaster content and other free-to-air channels. It will replicate the terrestrial TV experience, building on the heritage and popularity of the Freeview TV platform, currently used in 16 million homes.
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The initiative is being developed by Everyone TV, the organization which runs free TV in the U.K. and is jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
Jonathan Thompson, CEO, Everyone TV, said: “This new development is a reflection of the fact that a growing number of U.K. 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.”
Live TV delivers over half of all viewing in the U.K.. On average, 57% of viewing time is live broadcast per person per day, across all devices, per viewing data from Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board, which also shows that 15% (some 4 million) of U.K. TV homes are currently IP-only (broadband-only homes).
Director general of the BBC, Tim Davie, said: “Ensuring the universality of public-service television is sustained into the future is of paramount importance to the U.K. and all its public service broadcasters. We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration in helping viewers access our content, ensuring that, in a digital age, we deliver value for all audiences and that no one is left behind.”
Carolyn McCall, CEO, ITV, added: “As more and more U.K. households use internet-connected TVs, it’s critical that the public service broadcaster channels remain available and easy for them to find. This new collaboration enables the UK public to continue to get all of their favourite British TV channels, for free – just as Freeview did at the advent of digital TV.”
Alex Mahon, CEO, Channel 4, said: “Streaming TV is increasingly the new normal for audiences, particularly young viewers, so it has never been more important for trusted PSB content to be readily available to everyone, for free.”
Maria Kyriacou, president of broadcast and studios, international markets at Paramount, which owns Channel 5, said: “This new collaboration across the PSBs will ensure that, as these viewers continue to shift to IP enabled televisions, they continue to have an easy way to access the channels and content they know and love.”
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