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UK Free-to-Air networks unite for the launch of 'Freely' streaming service

Published: Updated: 08:17, 27 Sep 2023
Leading UK broadcasters set to launch live streaming service for linear networks

Leading broadcasters in the United Kingdom are coming together to launch "Freely," a new streaming service set to debut in 2024. Developed by Everyone TV, a consortium jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, Freely aims to recreate the terrestrial TV experience in the digital age.*

A Traditional TV experience in the Digital Era

Freely will offer a user-friendly platform designed to replicate the traditional television experience, similar to the widely used Freeview digital terrestrial television platform found in 16 million UK homes. Users will have access to live channels via a modern program guide and explore on-demand content seamlessly within the platform.

BBC director general Tim Davie highlighted the importance of maintaining public-service television's universality in the evolving digital landscape. He stated that ensuring access to content for all audiences, in a digital age, is a top priority for UK public service broadcasters.

Live Sports and the appeal of Traditional Linear Channels

Live sports broadcasts remain a significant draw for viewers seeking appointment television. UK free-to-air broadcasters continue to be the home for major sporting events like international soccer tournaments, Wimbledon, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. While each broadcaster currently offers its own streaming product for digital channel access, it falls short of replicating the convenience of traditional over-the-air broadcasting.

Freely aims to bridge this gap by adopting a free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) model. The BBC will continue to rely on the license fee, at least until the UK government determines a new funding model during the charter review in 2027. The success of Freely is anticipated to reverse the trend of younger audiences moving away from traditional linear channels. From a sports broadcasting perspective, Freely is expected to enhance discoverability and expand the reach of free-to-air networks' live coverage.

Everyone TV, formerly known as Digital UK, oversees the daily operations of the UK's free-to-air TV platforms and leads the transition into streaming. Additionally, the BBC and ITV jointly operate the BritBox subscription streaming service, which has garnered three million global subscribers. In a rapidly changing media landscape, "Freely" emerges as a collaborative effort to preserve the accessibility and appeal of traditional television while embracing the digital future.

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