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Freeview 2024?

The announcement yesterday from Digital UK about the future of Freeview is intriguing. What does it mean for the future* of free television in the UK?

What does this mean?  Photograph: Wikimedia commons
What does this mean? Photograph: Wikimedia commons
published on UK Free TV


Combining free-to-view TV with low-cost streaming services

Yes, you did read it right, it did say

“exploit the trend towards ‘cord cutting’ as viewers build their own ‘skinny bundles’”

in a BBC/ITV/Channel 4 press release. In the UK context, “cord cutting” must mean “not subscribing to a Sky or Virgin Media TV subscription”, which to be fair can be expensive, perhaps a thousand pound a year.

The low-cost streaming services are :

  • Netflix from £6 a month
  • Amazon Prime, £8 a month (£79/year) but includes Amazon next-day-delivery
  • YouTube, free (for now)

The need to highlight the above streaming services is that as the speed of internet connections has risen, the ability to reliably provide domestically and professionally usable video services has been reached. 

In the old days, you might have been able to order a DVD online and have it posted to you.   Later it was possible to download a video and watch it later.   Then came the time of on-demand promise, and buffering.

Today, almost all UK homes can watch streamed online video without interruption, often on more than one set at a time.    Over this time, the above services (and others, of course) have made themselves available on everything from the cheapest smartphone to the highest of high end televisions.

In the same time, the device that once did what a television did has morphed from a desktop computer with a VDU into mobile devices to fit any hand size from infant to giant, laptops and tablet computers are harder to distinguish for one another.  That a device is technically a television and technically can be connected to aerial or dish to watch live broadcasts of numbered channels is not foremost in the mind of purchasers.


What needs to happen

First, the public service broadcasters need to merge their offerings into a single Freeview app.  This means rather than having four apps, four websites, four Freesat apps and so on, just have a single point of entry for all their channels: a single app you can use on Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS and on set-top boxes.

Secondly, the system needs to be able to provide access to live TV streams, but also be able to rewind (“watch from the start”) or switch to a on-demand version of a show being repeated.

Thirdly, the system needs to work better with modern technology.    Amazon Prime video users can watch and navigate content by talking to Alexa, with a Google Home you can control YouTube streaming to a Chromecast.  To survive, Freeview must match these functions.


Why this might not work?

The above seems like a great start, but it might not be enough.

There is the obvious point that Netflix, Amazon and Google (owners of YouTube) are some of the biggest companies in the world edging their way to being trillion-dollar (£750 billion) companies. 


If you – somehow – took the BBC and ITV plc and Channel 4 and rolled them all together (say, £13.5 billion), you would have still only have one seventh of a Netflix, a forty-fifth of an Amazon or a fifty-second of an Apple.

It saddens me to say this, but in this game, £25m a year is too little, too late.  

What do you think?   It Netflix, Amazon and Youtube the unstoppable future?  


* “Trying to predict the future is a mug’s game. But increasingly it’s a game we all have to play because the world is changing so fast and we need to have some sort of idea of what the future’s actually going to be like because we are going to have to live there, probably next week.”

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In this section
Why did the BBC just use 1.1 Million TV Licences to buy UKTV from Discovery? 1
ITV and Freeview2
New Freeview Mobile App Launching in January 20193
Broadcasters collaborate to secure future of free-to-view TV 4
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Will the World Radiocommunication Conference be the death of Freeview?6

Saturday, 14 July 2018
john Martin

11:56 AM

DUH I never knew that. Theres me knew where satellites are located and go buy wrong dish and planted loads of trees in front of my dish. Thanks for that ha ha ha

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john Martin's 103 posts GB flag
Monday, 23 July 2018
Brian Wright

5:38 PM

Any combining of the Freeview channels I would like to see them streamed in UHD quality so that the present day TV's would not need to upscale from HD to UHD.
At the present time all Oled Tv's (the way to go if you are changing your TV) and many LCD panel Tv's have an UHD panel. I cannot see in the near future Freeview being transmitted in UHD . Their platforms on satellite could easily accommodate the wider bandwidth required but it always comes down to the cost. Unfortunately we aleays put emphasis on quantity at the expense of quality.!

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Brian Wright's 77 posts US flag
Sunday, 29 July 2018
Paul Bale
3:29 PM

I've still not lived anywhere with a reliable streaming service, with internet speeds varying and freezes happening often. Then there is weather that can also interrupt signals. It is no way to try and watch a programme. Also as Brian says even with the best service UHD is rare and nor reliable and with both Amazon and Netflix I've had to sit watching bad pictures while the service realises it is an HD or UHD production. All sounds suspicious to me, yet another privatisation plan in there somewhere which always costs the consumer a bundle .

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Paul Bale's 8 posts FR flag

3:45 PM

Paul Bale:

Streaming services do not use any form of RF transmission, it's all via your internet connection. That needs to be at least a reliable 4 Mbps for SD, at least 15 Mbps for HD and for UHD it will need to be over 40 Mbps and those speeds will need to be stable even at peak times.

Where I live, we get reliable 40+Mbps all day and throughout the evening so streaming HD programmes is reliable.

In many rural areas, such as where I used to live, we were lucky to get 2 Mbps and that is useless for streaming any form of TV programmes.

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MikeP's 3,056 posts PT flag

3:52 PM

Brian Wright:

As yet the broadcasting of UHD programmes has not been finalised, there are many technical issues needing to be resolved first.

Many TVs may be equipped with UHD capable displays but they will not yet be equipped with the necessary tuners or decoders for the UHD signals that may be transmitted in the future. The current Freeview SD transmissions used a form of encoding called DVB-T and that works for only SD standard images. The Freeview HD transmissions use a form of coding called DVB-T2, which can carry much more data so is used for HD. However, it is not suitable for UHD so a further increment in the encoding technique is required. Then the transmitters would need to be equipped with the capability to transmit those signals. So true UHD broadcasting is a way off yet.

You would also do better to wait for the encoding to be finalised so the set manufacturers can build in the needed eqipment to receive and decode the signals. Else you would need to ad an external box capable of UHD reception when they become available.

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MikeP's 3,056 posts PT flag
Monday, 30 July 2018
John Martin

1:51 PM

Yeah minute we all pay out for fully working UHD tuners etc then they will come out with 8k equipment and so called experts say you got to have it and 4K will be so yesterday even though most broadcasters will not got that far yet.. Just like on TV adverts now have stopped mentioning smart tv and now are going with A I assisted. People are so swung by adverts especially if they get so called celebs to promote them. Don,t be lead think for your self please

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John Martin's 103 posts GB flag

4:20 PM

John Martin: The reason you dont get manufacturers pushing smart TVs is that they all are. Remember the point where US TV programmes stopped announcing 'in color'? Same thing - what was the point?

4K will be the default for a fair while - the market for sets is ahead of content, as ever, and until T2 comes in fully, there wouldnt be the capacity for more than one channel anyway. After that, who knows?

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 1 August 2018
John Martin

2:28 PM

Yeah but smart tvs are not smart tvs just programmed mainly to do things we are to lazy to do and give us a load of rubbish we don,t really need. But we will still buy them. Ps they still push them but not as much because they will be pushing A.I soon. More than they are doing now. Thank god they cannot think for themselves as most smart and not so smart people do freely.

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John Martin's 103 posts GB flag

4:20 PM

John Martin:

Your thinkin g of what constutes a 'smart tv' is incorrect. A smart TV has the capability to download and display streamed programmes from the internet. They have no ability to 'think' at all. Not even a 'smart meter' for your energy supply does not have the ability to think, the supplier does than and communicates remotely with the device so they can alter the cost or even turn off your supplies if they want. (Read the recent articles in the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.)

So the thoughts about AI devices are irrelevant at present.

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MikeP's 3,056 posts GB flag
Thursday, 2 August 2018
John Martin

1:21 PM

|Duh I stand corrected ??? NOT Feel like I have been told off by the head master for picking holes in his work. Theres me thinking my smart meter was doing my kids homework for them and my tv was doing the crossword for the wife HA HA HA

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John Martin's 103 posts GB flag
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