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 it offer?
Guy North and his team at Freeview previously confirmed that BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4 would be integrated at launch. Channel 5's Demand 5 then followed soon after. We expect the latter to also change its name to My5 in the coming months, as it is rolling out the new branding across devices. You might have had the update on your TV already.
UKTV has also recently added support for its channels: Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama. Shows from each of these are also available on Freeview Play thanks to the UKTV Play app that compatible TVs and set-top-boxes now feature.
Other services and broadcasters are yet to announce their support.
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.
Where is it 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.
Long-standing Freeview partner Humax also produces Freeview Play set-top-boxes.
LG has several TVs in its line-up compatible with Freeview Play, as do JVC and Finlux. Freeview has also announced that Hisense, Sharp, Toshiba and Blaupunkt will also be manufacturing Freeview Play TVs for sale in 2017.
- You can see a full list of Freeview Play-enabled devices released so far here
Will I get it 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.
When is it coming?
Freeview Play launched in October 2015 and we had the chance to test the service on the Humax FVP-4000T set-top box and other TVs and devices. A new range of features are planned for 2017, including search functionality and recommendations. More on these is yet to be revealed.
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.