Freeview and Digital UK are to work on a new Freeview-branded TV service that blends digital terrestrial TV with on-demand – similar to how YouView does.
The new service will be free to use in the UK and will let people tap into a range of popular catch-up players as well as watch subscription free broadcast TV.
The new platform – which has yet to be named – will be developed, launched and promoted over the next five years.
Freeview’s former managing director Ilse Howling has now been appointed as managing director of Connected TV at Digital UK, where she will work on developing the new platform.
Howling said: “I’m delighted to be joining Digital UK to lead development of the new connected service.
“The company is well placed to develop the next generation specification and work with the supply chain to support a new, mass market service to make connected TV available free, for everyone.”
Howling’s former role at Freeview is being headed up by Guy North, ex-director of marketing communications at Freeview. North said: “Freeview is at the heart of the nation’s viewing and I’m proud to be leading the company into the next chapter of its history.
“People know and love the Freeview brand and will trust us to help them enjoy watching catch-up and on-demand TV in the future, alongside the high quality channels that Freeview already offers.”
Freeview and Digital UK have been threatening to launch a connected TV platform for some time. We first heard whisperings of something called ‘Freeview Smart’ back in 2012.
Earlier this year, a Digital UK spokesperson told Recombu: “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.
“Discussions are on-going with our shareholders as to exactly what this proposition will comprise, and how it can be most effectively delivered.”
It looks like those discussions have now advanced, with all of Freeview and Digital UK’s shareholders fully backing this project. Jonathan Thompson, chief Executive of Digital UK, added: “This announcement marks a critical step in the next stage of the platform’s development, ensuring that it will remain as relevant, important and valued by viewers in the future as it is today.”
YouView, which launched in 2012, is now in over a million homes, with growth driven largely by TV and broadband bundles. Freeview hardware is in over 11 million homes and remains the largest TV provider in the UK.
While Freeview still maintains a huge lead, YouView is continuing to improve and refine its services. Since launch, a raft of accesibility features were added to the service which YouView claimed made it the most accessible TV service in the country. More recently, YouView told Recombu about plans to expand the service, bringing Connected Red Button, cloud recordings and Virgin Media TiVo-style recommendations to the table.