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Freeview Connect: Digital UK confirms BBC, ITV and Channel 4’s alternative YouView talks

Access to catch up services from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 could be a standard feature of Freeview in the future. 

Freeview and Digital UK, the body that assists in the running of the Freeview programme guide, are currently looking at the future of the UK’s biggest TV service and how things like BBC iPlayer could be integrated into the programme guide. 

A Digital UK spokesperson said: “Freeview and Digital UK are exploring what a connected TV proposition, including catch-up TV, might look like alongside the existing linear TV offer to give viewers extra flexibility in how they watch television. 

Freeview HD set-top boxes like Pure’s Avalon 300R Connect already come with iPlayer access – but not through the programme guide

“Discussions are on-going with our shareholders as to exactly what this proposition will comprise, and how it can be most effectively delivered.” 

This could see Freeview come closer to matching what YouView currently offers; a digital terrestrial TV service augmented with access to catch-up services. 

As well as giving customers access to iPlayer, ITV Player and 4oD, YouView also offers access to Demand 5, Channel Five’s on demand platform as well as Dave, Really and Yesterday catch-up portals. 

This announcement follows a report last week that the BBC may reduce the amount of money it gives to YouView over concerns that the connected TV platform, which also mixes internet channels and catch-up with terrestrial TV, is being overtaken by TalkTalk and BT.  

Freeview’s managing director Ilse Howling has previously spoken of plans to develop something called ‘Freeview Smart’ which would blend content provided over broadband connections with traditional digital terrestrial TV channels. A report in The Guardian says that Freeview Connect is a possible name for the next version of Freeview. 

All Freeview HD devices are required to provide access to BBC iPlayer as standard. However with boxes like Avalon’s Pure 300R Connect, iPlayer can be found alongside YouTube in an on demand menu that’s separate to the regular programme guide. 

YouView’s programme guide by contrast lets you scroll backwards on the TV planner, letting you pick up shows you’ve missed rather than diving into a separate menu. 

The Freeview HD specification actually allows for a similar backwards EPG to be installed on set-top boxes and TVs. To date, the closest thing we’ve seen to Freeview launching a YouView-style guide is an online TV planner. 

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