The UK smart TV scene is about to experience its biggest home-grown shake up in years with the launch of new subscription-free streaming service, Freely. Developed by Everyone TV (which is also responsible for free terrestrial and satellite services Freeview HD and Freesat) and backed by all of the UK’s ‘big four’ terrestrial TV broadcasters, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, Freely has just revealed when it will be going live, as well as a first look at its interface and some of its new features.
The launch window is now set as the second quarter of 2024, at which point anyone with a TV capable of accessing the app will be able to experience, from launch, Freely’s key feature of letting you switch seamlessly between live and on demand TV – the first time this has been possible on a free, UK-based smart TV platform. Bringing such a service to the UK market now feels like good timing given that recent research by UK-based market analyst company 3 Reasons found that more than 50% of UK homes expect to watch TV exclusively over broadband by 2030.
According to Everyone TV’s latest update, a deal has been signed with huge European TV manufacturer Vestel to offer Freely on a five-year deal. Vestel is responsible for manufacturing the TVs of more than 20 TV brands across Europe, including Toshiba, Bush and JVC. The new Vestel partnership joins one announced in December 2023 with Hisense, which will see Freely coming to Hisense TVs from 2024, again on a five-year deal.
There are developments to report on the Freely content front, too, with the service announcing that its working with UKTV to bring that broadcaster’s portfolio of free channels – including Dave, Drama, Yesterday and W – to the service via broadband.
Freely’s latest update also highlights three major new features the service will support, starting with the MiniGuide. This pop-up interface will appear every time users switch channels, creating a seamless browsing experience and enabling viewers to easily find related live or on-demand content. Users will be able to pause, restart and access more episodes, too – and again these features will be available without Freely users having to spend a cent.
A Browse system, meanwhile, will make it possible for Freely users to explore recommended live and on-demand programming from British broadcasters supported by the service in one attractively and ergonomically presented interface, while Freely’s 7-day TV Guide will provide easy to navigate information on both the live shows you’re watching and on-demand linked content in a format that will remain consistent across all Freely-supporting TVs. In fact, apparently Freely is set to become the ‘native’ guide on Vestel TVs.
Everyone TV’s Joint Chief Product Officers, Sarah Milton and Carl Pfeiffer, had this to say of their service’s looming launch: “It’s clear the way people are watching TV is changing, with more audiences switching over to a broadband only connection. We’ve built Freely around the needs of British audiences, bringing them the freedom to choose how they want to watch, with all their favourite shows from the UK’s leading broadcasters all in one place for free. We’re really proud of what we’re launching with Freely and are excited about bringing major enhancements like the MiniGuide to viewers as Freely launches in Q2 this year.”
Freely has confirmed, finally, that more details of further smart TV, operating system and content partners will emerge in the coming weeks.
Panasonic Z95A OLED TV First Look: Bringing The Fire
Philips Unveils 2024 TV Range – Including Two New Micro Lens Array OLED Series
TCL Unveils New 2024 TV Range – Including A 5000-Nit, Mini LED 115 Incher