Freeview and Freesat complete merger, but what does it mean for your TV?
Freeview and Freesat are now one and the same company. The two brands finalised their long-awaited merger at the end of last week. For those who don’t want to shell out a small fortune to enjoy Sky Q, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video subscriptions to watch at home… Freeview and Freesat offer a wealth of shows and movies to watch for free. If you have either of these services, the merger brings some good news.
Freeview parent company Digital UK, which was a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and transmitter operator Arqiva – until the latter left the project last year, has now confirmed that it acquired Freesat on July 8, 2021. Freesat had two shareholders, BBC and ITV, which meant the merger had to be cleared by the relevant authorities and regulators.
The process of bringing the two companies together will take a number of months, the brands confirmed.
It’s unclear what exactly the merger will mean for viewers. However, Digital UK has claimed bringing both brands under the same roof will mean both will “benefit from a more streamlined approach to technological innovation and product development”.
As such, we’d expect new functionality to roll out to Freeview and Freesat devices at the same time. Fingers crossed, it should also mean that upcoming content deals will apply to both set-top boxes – so Freesat and Freeview viewers will be able to enjoy the same boxsets and channels.
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We’d also hope that innovations already available on one of the Digital UK services but not another can now be shared – bringing both of these free-to-watch options on a level footing for the first time.
For those who don’t know, Freesat offers access to a number of the same channels as Freeview, but relies on a satellite dish to connect viewers to their favourite shows. So, if you’ve decided to leave Sky Q, but still have a dish strapped to your roof and don’t fancy a weekend of DIY – you can plug in a Freesat compatible set-top box to access free-to-air channels using your existing receiver. That’s a different approach to Freeview, which leverages your aerial.
There are a few advantages to Freesat over Freeview, most notably, that the service uses the additional capacity afforded when broadcasting via satellite to offer a selection of 24 high-definition channels, including those from BBC, ITV, Channel 5, Discovery Networks, France 24, Paramount Network, Bloomberg, RT UK and TRT World.
That said, Freeview Play – which requires an internet connection to bring catch-up services into the TV Guide – includes more content than Freesat. When using a Freeview Play television or set-top box, scrolling to the left on the TV Guide will allow viewers “travel back in time” and jump into previously-aired shows still available from BBC iPlayer, My5, ITV Hub, All4 and others.
In total, it pulls content from 10 on-demand catch-up services now, following the launch of POP Player at the end of last year. While much of this is also possible with Freesat, the service doesn’t currently include any shows from All4.
Jonathan Thompson, CEO, Digital UK, said: “I’m delighted to be heading up the new entity and am very much looking forward to leading the development of free-to-view TV in the UK over the coming years. Freeview and Freesat are both major success stories for the UK’s TV industry and wider society, enabling the public policy goals that underpin public service broadcasting, allowing access to high quality TV for free, for all.”
The news comes as Digital UK struck a deal with Amazon to bring Freeview Play to its Fire TV Edition TVs. These are TVs powered entirely by the Fire TV operating system that can also be found on its best-selling Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Cube set-top boxes.
The Freeview Play app will allow access to 85 live broadcast channels and content from 10 on-demand players, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, UKTV Play, CBS Catchup Channels UK, Horror Bites, STV Player and BBC Sounds.
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