Britain’s biggest broadcasters have announced that they are working on the development of a new free TV service that will deliver live TV over broadband.
The broadcasters said that the landmark collaboration will mark the first time that British viewers will have free access to live TV channels and on demand content from the U.K.’s most popular broadcasters streamed straight to their smart TV via the internet.
Set for launch in 2024, the new service, called Freely, will be built-in to the next generation of smart TVs and feature a line-up 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.
Freely is being developed by Everyone TV, the organization which runs free TV in the UK and is jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
As viewers increasingly consume content online, this next phase for free TV is about the distribution and availability of the public service broadcasters’ live channels for a streaming age. It will help ensure the availability of public service broadcasters (PSB) services into the future and complement the new provisions for on demand and streaming prominence, set out in the draft Media Bill, the broadcasters said.
"We are delighted to be working with the public service broadcasters on the next phase of free TV’s evolution,” explained Jonathan Thompson, CEO, Everyone TV. “This new development is a reflection of the fact that a growing number of UK 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."
"Ensuring the universality of public-service television is sustained into the future is of paramount importance to the UK and all its public service broadcasters,” added director general of the BBC, Tim Davie. “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."
"As more and more UK households use internet-connected TVs, it's critical that the public service broadcaster channels remain available and easy for them to find,” said Dame Carolyn McCall, CEO, ITV. “This new collaboration enables the UK public to continue to get all of their favorite British TV channels, for free - just as Freeview did at the advent of digital TV. Alongside the important reforms set out in the draft Media Bill it will help PSBs to continue to thrive for years to come."
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George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.