What is Freeview Play? Five Things to Know About The Smart TV Service

Freeview Play is a UK-based live TV and on-demand application, pre-installed on select TVs and available in set-top boxes. The app is often considered the answer to the failings of modern TV. Premium on-demand services, such as Netflix, Amazon Video, and Now TV, have been stripping away the market that free-to-air television enjoyed, and Freeview Play was the killer weapon to help fight back. Freeview Play is NOT available in the US, mostly because of the tuner type used and the territorial licensing of on-demand content.

What is Freeview Play? Five Things to Know About The Smart TV Service

What Exactly is Freeview Play?

Freeview Play essentially combines live TV and on-demand content, all collated in one place. The platform includes content from the likes of BBC iPlayer, the ITV hub, All 4, Demand 5, and UKTV Play, making it easy for you to catch up on all your favorite shows. Plus, there’s content from over 70 digital channels and 15 HD channels to enjoy, which are also available for Freeview (without the word Play). Your TV or recorder has to connect to the internet, and then you’re set, all without spending a penny as you do with other services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

With devices such as Google’s Chromecast, Amazon’s Fire TV 4K Stick, the Playstation 4 (PS4), and Xbox One, is a Freeview Play set-top box a smart investment? Is it going to be enough to turn the tide and convince a younger audience, not due to the old-fashioned notion of scheduled TV? Is it worth rushing out and buying a dedicated box right now, or should you opt for a TV featuring the app?

For those of you still sitting on the fence about Freeview Play, here are five things you should know before you go out and snap up a new Freeview Play-enabled device.

Freeview Play Has Expanded Since Its Release

In simple terms, Freeview Play is a version of Freeview where live TV is presented seamlessly alongside catch-up/on-demand content. The app uses an aerial/antenna for local broadcast TV and an internet connection for the on-demand features. When you’re browsing through your electronic program guide (EPG), you can flick back a whole week and watch whatever you’ve missed.

Currently, it supports the following UK on-demand/catch-up services: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, and UKTV Play. That amounts to over 70 channels, and Freeview Play boxes/TVs also support subscription apps such as Netflix, Amazon Video, and BBC Sport.

Freeview Play Boxes are Expensive

In the US, competition is fierce when it comes to streaming boxes, and many are not a box at all. However, UK set-top boxes are in demand, especially those that use the Freeview Play application. Why is Freeview Play so popular? The app gets much attention due to its ability to play, record, and replay aerial/antenna broadcast television, as well as the ability to watch tons of on-demand content for free. You can check out our guiding list of Freeview Play kits here.


If you’re planning on buying a new TV, however, there are already many of them on the market with integrated Freeview Play tuners. Surprisingly, TVs are not as expensive as you may expect, but they’re still a bit higher than the competitive pricing of similar TVs in the US.

Freeview Play is an Open Platform

Freeview Play isn’t a fixed service like Now TV or Sky, meaning individual manufacturers can shape the service to their devices as they please. This benefit means that for UK residents, depending on their device, they could end up with extra features, internet connectivity, and services not offered with other Freeview Play equipment.

While all Freeview Play devices can update with new Freeview additions or changes, other pre-installed services depend on the manufacturer. For instance, a tool developed by Freeview will appear on every Freeview Play device, while Humax, LG, or Panasonic may add something else that only their devices receive.

READ NEXT: The five best TV streamers you can buy in 2016

Freeview Play is Likely to Become The Future Standard

Freeview has a heritage in dominating the TV market. More people use Freeview than Freesat, and while Sky has a massive market share, Sky isn’t free. It’s easy to see that Freeview Play could become the new standard for TV tuners in the UK.

The momentum behind Freeview Play has picked up now that LG has joined Panasonic and Humax to offer the app on their new smart TVs, but that’s still a relatively limited portion of the TV market. If Freeview Play does take off, more manufacturers will likely follow suit, but the service has a steep hill to climb.

Freeview Play’s competition, YouView, is integrated into many of Sony’s Bravia TVs. The application is also part of TalkTalk’s TV, and it has support from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and BT—a formidable lineup.

If Freeview Play is The Future, There’s No Need to Adopt Right Away

Since its creation in 2001, Freeview has become the default way to watch TV for millions of people in the UK. While the market has changed since then, especially with the introduction of YouView, it’s hard to imagine Freeview Play not remaining the standard, unless YouView manages to forge enough partnerships with TV manufacturers.

Therefore, there’s little need to rush out and buy a set-top box or Play-enabled Blu-ray player in the UK just yet.

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