Freeview Play vs YouView: Which digital TV service is worth you time?
TV is changing. No longer are we sitting down to watch programmes live, instead we’re opting for catch-up services and on-demand streaming services like Netflix. This change in how we consume entertainment has led to the launch of Freeview Play, a new free-to-air digital TV service that builds catch-up services right into the TV guide for seamless viewing of shows you may have missed.
If your wondering why that sounds familar, that’s because it is. It’s, essentially, what the BT and TalkTalk-backed YouView box is all about.
Don’t worry about getting confused about which option is the right option for you, here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know about Freeview Play and YouView before you go out and pick up your new TV or digital set-top-box.
Freeview Play or YouView: devices
As Freeview Play is relatively new, you can only access it on one Humax set-top-box and a selection of five Panasonic Viera TVs. Over time more TV manufacturers will begin to adopt Freeview Play as standard, with Vestel (who create the Finlux range of TVs and retailer-branded devices) committing to bringing Freeview Play-enabled Blu-ray players and set-top-boxes to market.
When you look at the YouView market, things are a whole lot more complicated.
Retailers provide an easy route into the world of YouView via a standard or DVR-enabled YouView set-top-box or through one of nine YouView-enabled Sony Bravia TVs. After that things turn into a rabbit warren of YouView branded devices.
BT offers up three different BT-branded YouView set-top-boxes: a standard, a YouView+ and a YouView Ultra HD box.
Plusnet and TalkTalk customers have a choice between a standard YouView streamer and the HDD-equipped YouView+, although TalkTalk’s boxes come in a different design to make them look somewhat exclusive.
Freeview Play or YouView: channels and streaming services
No matter which service you opt for, be it YouView or Freeview Play, you’ll receive the same set of standard 60 TV channels any current Freeview user is familiar with.
YouView claims to have over 70 channels, but this includes a mix of regional specific stations, additional extras you receive through picking your YouView box up via BT or TalkTalk and HD only options. While Freeview Play may lack the BT and TalkTalk specific channels, it does also include the 12 HD channels that YouView has.
In terms of additional services, Freeview Play and YouView both have catch up services baked right into the TV guide (or Electronic Programme Guide as it’s officially called).
Currently Freeview Play only supports BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and All 4, with Demand 5 on the way. Conversely, YouView has all four services and also includes STV Player, Milkshake!, UKTV, S4C and Quest. If that wasn’t enough, YouView also supports Netflix, Now TV and Sky Store.
Clearly YouView is the better of the two services right now, but as it’s had over a year head start on Freeview Play that’s expected. Over time Freeview Play has plans to fold in more catch up services and it’s flexible enough to offer up paid-for services like Netflix if device manufacturers feel the need to include it in their TVs or set-top-boxes.
Freeview Play or YouView: interface
Freeview Play’s biggest selling point is that you can access the last week of television via on-demand services directly from the system’s EPG. This means no jumping out of your standard TV interface to enjoy some catch-up programming.
YouView also allows you to do this in exactly the same way, accessing catch up content from within the EPG. It also has space for paid-for streaming services too, but those aren’t accessible from directly within your TV guide.
Freeview Play or YouView: DVR functionality
Both Freeview Play and YouView offer DVR functionality if you pick up the right devices.
Humax’s Freeview Play set-top-box comes with either 500GB or 1TB of storage, allowing for up to 600 hours of live TV to be recorded. It’s unclear if Panasonic’s TVs also have this functionality, but it’s likely they just use standard Freeview Play tuners instead.
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YouView+ boxes, and BT’s YouView Ultra HD set-top-box can also save and record footage directly to it. YouView+ comes equipped with enough storage for 150 hours of footage, whilst the Ultra HD box’s 1TB drive can capture 250 hours of ultra HD programming.
Freeview Play or YouView: price
Just like Freeview, Freeview HD and Freeview Plus, Freeview Play is completely free to watch after a one-off payment for a set-top-box or a new Freeview Play-enabled TV.
The Humax FVP-4000T 500GB set-top-box will set you back £200, with a 1TB version costing a shade more at £230. If you’d like to have Freeview Play integrated into your TV, you’ll be looking at anywhere from £589 for Panasonic’s 40in 4K TV, up to £2,400 for a 65in 4K curved screen.
YouView, on the other hand, comes in a vast array of packages and prices thanks to its inclusion with subscription packages from internet service providers.
If you decide to buy YouView directly from a retailer you can expect to pay around the £100 mark. If you’d like a YouView+ box so you can record live TV, that’ll set you back around £160. Of course, if you opt for a Sony Bravia TV with YouView built in, you’re looking at spending around £700 for the luxury.
YouView through TalkTalk, BT and Plusnet all come as part of varying internet packages and line rentals, meaning you’ll need to drill down into the deal that suits your needs best. As you can expect, they range from around £5 a month plus line rental to £10 a month with line rental.
Alongside the cost of the box, you’ll also need to pay for an internet connection to use catchup services. If you subscribe to YouView through BT, it will exclude YouView usage from your data allowance, allowing you to watch catch up services to your heart’s content without worrying about going over the limit.
Don’t watch much TV but still want to access catch-up services? Go read our list of the five best TV streamers money can buy in 2015.