UK’s Freeview Play is ‘next step’ toward TV of the future

U.K. TV free-to-air digital service Freeview has announced a new connected offering, Freeview Play, which will launch later this year and go head-to-head with other streaming services like YouView and Sky’s Now TV.

The new iteration will include catch-up TV from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and 4oD – the Channel 4 content portal will become “All 4” toward the end of Q1 – on demand and live television, and an electronic programming guide to help users navigate through as much as a week’s worth of catch-up TV and the deepening pool of Internet TV content available.

In transforming Freeview, which is in an estimated 10.5 million homes in the United Kingdom, into a connected experience, is designed to help the service scale faster.

Freeview’s aim is that its new connected TV service will become the new normal way to watch television.

“Freeview has been built on a vision to make television available to all free from subscription,” said Guy North, Freeview’s MD. “In the same way that we took the U.K. from analogue to digital, Freeview Play is the next step in that vision and it will put the viewer in control, without complexity, commitment or unnecessary cost – we want to keep television fair and open for everyone. That means giving consumers the freedom to choose the TV they want, the way they want it.”

But the service launch date has yet to be announced, as Freeview Play won’t be available on existing TVs and set-top boxes; it’s using a new standard to be released in new STBs and connected TVs, although it hasn’t yet said on what brands their content eventually will be available.

Freeview said the logo and visual identity have been refreshed to “reflect the platform’s evolving service.” The new look will be introduced across Freeview’s product portfolio and brand marketing.

“Our new brand identity is bold and contemporary and will stand out in what is a very crowded TV market,” North said. “Today marks the start of an exciting future for the Freeview brand.”

The Freeview shareholders – Arqiva, BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Sky – are “fully committed to supporting Freeview’s journey to bring connected television to millions of homes in the UK,” added Keith Underwood, Freeview Chairman.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn