Freeview is no longer just a digital TV platform, it also embraces connected tech and online content. And now there's Freeview Play that offers on-demand TV directly within its electronic programme guide, so you don't have to hunt through individual apps.
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?
Basic 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.
And that's in addition to the standard Freeview list of channels - there are now 70 TV channels, 15 HD channels at no cost and over 25 radio stations available on the platform. Quest HD is the latest channel to launch on Freeview and Freeview Play bringing you highlights from the Football League as well the British Superbike Championship.
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. Manufacturers include Panasonic, LG, Sony, Toshiba and Hisense.
You can see a full list of Freeview Play-enabled devices released so far here
Can I get Freeview Play on my existing TV?
Freeview Play is a completely new standard, so can't be added or downloaded via a firmware update on really old TVs. Only select Panasonic, LG and Sony TVs are capable of having the service installed as an update.
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.
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