If you want the best of catch-up and live TV without shelling out for a subscription service, Freeview Play could be for you. Essentially, it’s a platform that lets you watch TV live, or shows you recently missed, via an aerial and internet connection.
So if you’re not a fan of the idea of fees associated with the likes of Sky, Virgin or BT, then this could be for you. It’s very similar to YouView, which you may have also heard of, but is fast becoming more and more prevalent in new hardware.
Here’s everything you need to know about Freeview Play, up to date for 2017.
What is Freeview Play?
In essence, Freeview Play is a combination of live TV and catch-up TV – all in one easily accessible place.
Freeview Play now comes built into plenty of new smart TVs, as well as set-top boxes and Blu-ray players. Once you have it, you never need to pay anything more to use the service.
Freeview Play delivers live TV over your aerial and utilises your internet connection to stream anything else broadcast up to seven days ago. It does all this through the TV guide accessible via your remote, so it’s super simple too.
Rather than having to go into individual apps like BBC iPlayer or All 4 to find shows, you can just scroll through the EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) on your TV as you would normally and it’ll all be in that one place.
Freeview Play currently offers over 70 digital TV channels in 2017, with 15 showing HD quality shows. All without any monthly fee.
What catch-up apps does Freeview Play support?
As we mentioned before, you don’t need to worry about going in and out of apps since Freeview Play pulls them all into one place.
You can get access to content found on BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, Demand 5 and UKTV Play all from that main EPG. So as you scroll through your TV guide you can go back through time up to seven days to watch content.
This is one area that YouView offers more since it also supports apps like Netflix for more streaming. But that then means you need to start signing into accounts, which you pay for monthly, whereas Freeview Play keeps it pure with only free content.
What devices have Freeview Play?
As of 2017, when this was written, there are a hefty 37 devices available with Freeview Play from dedicated set-top boxes to TVs that come with it built-in.
TV manufacturers that support Freeview Play include Panasonic, LG, Hitachi, JVC, Hisense and Finlux.
Freeview Play set-top boxes are available from Panasonic and Humax with some offering Blu-ray support too. Lots of these boxes offer built-in storage that makes recording or shows locally a simple option too.
Check out the complete list of supported Freeview Play devices here.
Will Freeview Play offer 4K UHD and HDR content?
As of 2017, all devices that offer Freeview Play need to support the decoding of HEVC for programmes delivered by broadband. That also includes optional support for Ultra HD and HDR.
Lots of TVs revealed this year come with HLG, which was created by the BBC and NHK as a means of broadcasting 4K HDR content. So expect broadcasters to begin to air that level of content later this year. It sounds like Freeview Play will be able to support that jump up in quality so any TV that is capable should offer the upgraded viewing experience for free.
Does Freeview Play offer multi-room viewing?
One of the major advantages of Freeview Play over the free competition like YouView is multi-room support. That means the ability to watch content on more than one screen in the house at a time, similar to Sky Q and Virgin’s V6 4K service. With the likes of Sky you need to pay extra to get bonus boxes for multi-room support, so Freeview Play’s support is all the more impressive.
If you have more than one TV or set-top box with Freeview Play, you can immediately enjoy the service in more than one place. You will need an aerial connection in both places if you want to watch live TV in most cases. However if you have recorded something on one box, say downstairs, you’ll be able to watch it back on another box, like one upstairs in the bedroom for example – as if it had been recorded right on that box.
All that said, there are some options for live TV via one aerial. For instance, Humax offers its H3 FVP-4000T box which features three tuners. When used with a Humax H3 Espresso it can send signals over the local Wi-Fi so you can watch TV in another room minus the aerial connection.