Freely, a new free streaming service, is coming to the UK, backed by major broadcasters BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5.
The news was unveiled on Sunday by Everyone TV, a joint venture of the channels. According to the website, Freely will allow viewers to “switch seamlessly” between live and on demand TV from the broadcasters, which probably means viewers are still up for the UK’s required £159 annual TV licence fee — not entirely “free” then.
Launching in the second quarter of 2024, Freely will be accessible in any home with a WiFi connection. Whether the service will have a dedicated standalone app hasn’t been announced. Freely is also working with BBC Studios’ production company UKTV to expand access to its portfolio of free channels, like Dave, Drama, and Yesterday.
How Freely’s programming will compare to the subscription-based streaming service BritBox, founded by BBC and ITV, remains to be seen. It’s also unclear how different the platform will be to the broadcasters’ individual streaming platforms BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All4, and My5, and whether Freely will be an easy amalgamation of these platform’s full catalogues or a limited offering.
Everyone TV shared features of Freely’s UI, including a pop-up mini guide when users switch channels, a Freely browse button coming to remotes, and a seven-day TV guide to discover content.
“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,” Sarah Milton and Carl Pfeiffer, joint chief product officers at Everyone TV, said in a statement, “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.”
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