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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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Saturday, 4 August 2018
Frank Page
6:05 PM

You still don't get it do you?

You cant save or fast forward through streamed programmes unless the sender wants you to be able to do so.

Without an antenna and or a dish you cant watch alternative overseas transmissions if your government does not want to to be able to do so.

Think you live in a democracy? Think again.

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Frank Page's 1 post US flag
Sunday, 5 August 2018
John Martin

10:21 AM

Still rather live in this country than any other. Ok people make films and shows and tv programs they want money for. Even in a democracy we all need to earn a living. You cannot have everything for free.. I can wait till films come on terrestrial tv or rent them. I do not expect to get them all illegally.

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John Martin's 103 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 7 August 2018

5:09 PM

Actually, smart TVs do have a sort of AI in many cases - the LG OLEDS for this year are advertised as such, although this is is to anticipate what sort of programme you will like, etc.

As for what the government does or does not want you to watch, judging by what people still mange to watch via the net, arguably government isnt all that effective in that area. Having said that, OFCOM does stop some of the worst news programming out there, so we do have some portection.

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MikeB's 2,579 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 15 August 2018
5:30 PM

Sad, but many people are happy with No Internet or just ADSL for what they want to see. Some, amazingly, don't watch films, but would in preference just want -"truth"- as it happens, the odd current docu and perhaps a bit of sport commentary after-the-fact. The whole multi-streaming bit is an expense and unnecessary outgoing cost just to be able to pay even extra on top for premium services. They are happy with the slow lane and 'old' tech.They have 'FM' radio (and I have heard that some still use AM).
Many do not have the choice through financial resource or even 'interest' to keep up with latest Tech.
Now, take my wife...

Oh... not yet; she's just enjoying a DVD off Ebay. Bless.

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LowTech's 5 posts GB flag
Thursday, 16 August 2018
John Martin

1:16 PM

That is why freeview is popular for all reasons given

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John Martin's 103 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Bill Kocher

7:51 AM

We watch most TV via streaming or pre recording. Only live TV we watch is BBC News over breakfast, lunch or tea. We use iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon and Nowtv. But in our flat in Brighton, we can only have terrestrial TV as our block does not have a satellite dish, so no Freesat. Also because it was built in late 80s at time Ntl was cabling up Brighton, now Virgin Media, Openreach never upgraded the cabinet in the street outside, so no fibre available. This means the choise' of broadband providers is limited to any provider who supplies basic lowspeed BB, or pay Virgin for fibre content. So I can only get decent BB speeds by paying Virgin. I have a package that includes TV so I get their V6 box to record programmes. Broadband up to 100mbs, but does drop down to 20mbs at times!
So to get good streaming speeds I'm stuck with Virgin, who have just hiked their bill by 3.50 a month. Package now costing around 49 a month. It includes phone we never use as we use our mobles, but Virgin say it has to be part of package. Also we very rarely watch anything other than free to air channels, the hundreds of extra channels provided are a waste.
Finally just to mention wife and I are in our early 70s, so not typical of pensioners who we are told only watch live TV. And just so you know we are both on the state pension plus some small top ups, not in the fat pension class we also hear about on the news.

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Bill Kocher's 47 posts GB flag
John Martin

11:10 AM

50 a month sorry 49 a month for all you want is pretty good. I only pay 36. But don,t subscribe to movies or sport. I have a mobile but still use landline as its free to talk to 90 percent of who we talk to.

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John Martin's 103 posts GB flag
Monday, 17 September 2018

3:23 AM

People can always blame it on Brexit.
I can't imagine a time in this world where the UK public will ever be free from having to pay that dreadful BBC it's bribe/ licence fee.

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Robert's 76 posts GB flag
Saturday, 22 September 2018

7:23 AM

I was an cable TV subscriber until free view increased transmission power i switched over as cable service including broadband was getting very expensive... i was paying nearly 100 pounds a month for 3 tv boxes and a recorder.... now we have 4 free view recorders with smart TV built in and i do use Netflix once in a while as i like that i doint have to pay for it every month. I do hope terrestrial TV carry on into the future... i cannot see all content being reliable over internet.. if that does happen I may have to switch to Freesat

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Rob's 171 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 25 September 2018
michael scott
7:16 PM

Interesting to read the varied comments to date. I had hoped that Freeview and Freesat would last and last for the foreseeable future.I have a Sky Q multiroom setup as well as multiroom freeview and freesat but I could manage without the Sky channels easily,it's because the Sky Q system is so easy to use,particularly recording, with a brilliant epg. DLNA needs to be promoted more for multiroom use for free.
Next year Gigaclear will be able to supply my south-devon village with 'true fibre' to my living room:BT has an Openreach fibre cabinet 1.1 miles away! Having 'true fibre' (300 Mbps for 45 pounds a month)will enable me to experiment with IPTV U-HD/4K programme content from global and national providers including uk broadcasters if they adapt fully to the need. I personally favour a 'combo' box approach for dvb-t/dvb-s/iptv reception,up to the forthcoming hdmi 2.1 standard to show off fully the benefits of 4K/8K HDR HLG etc. We shall see!
I am also hoping the two 'extra' freeview multiplexes will be increased in power when the 'final' freeview changes occur early next year 2019?

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michael scott's 5 posts GB flag
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