Britain’s biggest broadcasters, BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, announced their collaboration on the development of a new free TV service that will deliver live TV over broadband. For the first time for free, British viewers will be able to easily browse and watch live TV channels together with on-demand content 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.
The companies describe Freely as an evolution that puts the distribution of free TV at the center of the streaming age. The new service will provide millions of broadband-only homes with easy access to a single consistent experience for live free TV over IP. Viewers will be able to seamlessly browse channels through a modern and intuitive programme guide, and use innovative functionality designed to make it easier to find and explore new shows directly from live TV.
According to the firms, as viewers increasingly consume content online, this next phase for free TV is about the distribution and availability of the PSBs’ live channels for a streaming age. It will help ensure the availability of PSB services into the future and complement the new provisions for on demand and streaming prominence, set out in the draft Media Bill.
Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC, commented: "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. 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."
Dame Carolyn McCall, CEO of ITV, declared: "As more and more UK households use internet-connected TVs, it is 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 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."
Alex Mahon, CEO of Channel 4, added: "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. We look forward to working closely with our PSB partners so that when the Media Bill’s prominence provisions become law, the technology to make Britain’s favorite TV shows easy to find will already be in place."
Maria Kyriacou, President of Broadcast & Studios, International Markets at Paramount, concluded: "We know that British audiences continue to have a strong appetite for the high quality, relevant and impartial content provided by our UK public service broadcasters such as Channel 5. 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."