To stay relevant in a world of television where catch-up and on demand video is king, Freeview is no longer just a digital TV platform, it also embraces connected tech and online content.
It offers connected TV shows directly within its electronic programme guide, so you don't have to hunt for individual applications for channels.
It is designed to make things simpler for the people that choose to use Freeview on their main sets over paid-for or other digital TV services. So to help you get to grips with what Freeview Play offers and when and where you might see it, we've put together this quick and handy guide.
What is Freeview Play?
Freeview Play is the connected part of the Freeview offering.
Freeview is the free-to-air digital TV offering for the vast majority of UK television sets and an equally large number of set-top boxes. It offers many standard definition channels, HD channels and Freeview+ as a standard for personal video recording.
Freeview Play adds connected services to the mix so that, within the EPG, you are able to scroll backwards through the last seven days of programming and select shows to watch streamed over the internet that you might have missed.
If you are a Virgin Media or Sky subscriber, or have a YouView box, you'll understand the concept.
The technology is an open standard, which means manufacturers can skin the experience any way they like, as long as they stick to the agreed standards: the Freeview Play branding must remain prominent, for example.
What services does Freeview Play offer?
Freeview Play offers integrated access to the major UK TV catch-up services: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5 and the UK TV Play app. UK TV lets you catch-up on programmes from Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama.
Other services and broadcasters are yet to announce their support.
In addition to TV catch-up services, Freeview Play also gives you access to 25 radio stations.
Freeview Play is not like a Smart TV platform that offers streaming apps such as Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. The connected content on offer will relate only to channels in the Freeview line-up, so it is up to those broadcasters to jump on board.
However, there's also nothing to stop manufacturers including additional services in their own Smart platforms, which provides a degree of differentiation between those supplying the hardware.
For example, Humax includes Netflix on its Freeview Play boxes, whereas TVs adopting Freeview Play will offer plenty of other Smart TV services outside of the Freeview Play experience. LG for example, has the full webOS smart TV platform alongside the Freeview Play functions.
The latest feature to be introduced to the Freeview Play platform is Freeview Explore, a service that gives you the best daily content from the on-demand channels available on Freeview Play. Freeview Explore has its own tab in the main Freeview Play menu and splits recommended content into 10 categories.
Content isn't based on your viewing habits though, but rather is determined by the broadcasters themselves, so you're more likely to find niche content.
Where is Freeview Play available?
Freeview has partnerships with a number of hardware manufacturers, including those that make TVs and set-top boxes.
Panasonic was the first TV maker to hit the UK with Freeview Play-enabled sets. There are also several Freeview Play digital recorders and Blu-ray players available from Panasonic.
- DMR-HWT150EB TV recorder with 500GB hard drive
- DMR-HWT250EB TV recorder with 1TB hard drive
- DMR-PWT550EB Blu-ray player with 500GB hard drive
- DMR-PWT655EB Blu-ray player with 1TB hard drive
- DMR-BWT850EB Blu-ray player with 1TB hard drive and 4K upscaling
- Viera CX680
- Viera DX600
- Viera DX700 - 50DX700 review
- Viera DX750
- Viera CX700 - Currys exclusive
- Viera CX802 - 50CX802 review
- Viera DX802 - 58DX902 review
Long-standing Freeview partner Humax also produces Freeview Play set-top-boxes.
LG has several TVs in its line-up compatible with Freeview Play, including its rather excellent OLED models.
JVC, Finlux and Hisense also all make TVs with Freeview Play tuners, and Freeview has promised sets from Sharp, Toshiba and Blaupunkt will also be launching in 2017.
You can see a full list of Freeview Play-enabled devices released so far here
Can I get Freeview Play on my existing TV?
Sadly, as a completely new standard, it is only be available on new kit - unless you bought one of Panasonic's latest sets in the last year, or have an LG TV with webOS. It will not be available as an upgrade to other existing TVs or Freeview boxes.
Those who have bought a new television not from the compatible list will have to add one of the supported set-top-boxes.
How much does Freeview Play cost?
There are no costs associated with Freeview Play beyond what it costs to buy the equipment. Unlike Sky or Virgin Media, there are no subscriptions, as everything is free to air, or free to use on catch-up.
If your provider supplies additional content through extra apps like Netflix, those will require a separate subscription.