7 things you need to know about Freeview Play

Is it the next big thing in British TV?

Freeview new brand new product

Freeview Play is arriving this year, with the company keen to tell everyone that it is aiming to do for connected television what it did for the UK's digital TV revolution.

Bringing on-demand content and aiming primarily at Smart televisions (TVs that are capable of connecting to the internet) but also likely to make an appearance on set top boxes, Freeview Play will take on YouView as well as cheap media streamers like Amazon Fire TV, Now TV and Chromecast.

But if you are considering the options, why would you plump for a Freeview Play offering? What kind of price point will it be at and where does this leave YouView? We have the answers.

1.What exactly is Freeview Play?

Freeview Play

Freeview Play is the new offering from Freeview, offering both both catch-up and on-demand television that will be streamed across the internet connection from your television or set top box as well as the traditional TV Electronic Programme Guide (or EPG).

The catch-up and on-demand television will, at launch, comprise programmes from the BBC through iPlayer, ITV through ITV Player and Channel 4 for 4OD and you will be able to find them through a so-called backwards EPG - allowing you to go back to previously broadcast programmes and watch them on demand.

2. But how is that different from YouView / Sky / Virgin Media?

Sky s box subscription needed
Sky's box - subscription needed

Freeview Play will be subscription free, which marks it out as separate from the any paid-for service, but in terms of functionality it will be offering something that will be less fully-featured than Sky, Virgin Media or even YouView.

When we asked what the unique selling point of Freeview Play was, the answer from managing director Guy North was unequivocal: "We're aiming to do with Freeview Play what freeview has always done making new technology available and affordable for the mass market."

What does that actually mean? Essentially, Freeview will build on years of relationships with manufacturers to provide its service to the widest possible audience. And that, it hopes, will allow it to blow past YouView et al.

3. So is this a YouView killer?

YouView broader content
YouView - broader content

You could certainly arrive at that conclusion. YouView is a more comprehensive service and has made inroads through deals with BT, Sony and TalkTalk to get itself into homes, but it's all about numbers and Freeview's relationship with manufacturers means that it could be an immediate and pervasive presence on next-generation Smart TVs.

YouView will, of course, be confident that its broader service will prove attractive as people move into connected television and look for a better experience; but it is certainly a major threat from a service that YouView was once held up as the next generation to.

4. What about streamers like Now TV, Amazon Prime and Chromecast?

NOW TV subs free and low cost
NOW TV - subs free and low cost

Freeview Play's most likely implementation will be on Smart TV, built in as part of the existing user experience (although we were told that set top boxes were being discussed). Streamers like Now TV will offer the catch up services that FP will, but not in such an integrated way and not with an EPG .

That said, many of the competing streaming services will feel that they are offering something both broader and with a quality user experience for accessible prices. Certainly allowing access to exclusive content will be a big lure; as will relatively low costs.

5. Is it going to be a success?

Freeview executives are excited about the new product
Freeview executives are excited about the new product

At first glance it's easy to write off Freeview Play; the expected model is around television upgrades rather than the low-cost set top boxes that made Freeview so central to the move to digital television, it has a narrower service than longer established competitors, and the curious decision to rebrand will raise obvious questions.

But, as we've said, this is about scale and relationships. YouView has partnered with Sony to offer a Smart TV offering, but if Freeview Play is pushed through the majority of other TV manufacturers it could well have the edge.

6. How much will it cost?

Pricing is still TBC

There are no confirmed costs - because it will be up to the manufacturers who include Freeview Play in their products; but given the references to Smart TVs as the key route to market you are looking at the likelihood of a considerable cost for a Freeview Play-enabled television (especially because it will only be in the new ranges).

Whether cheap set-top boxes arrive in the first wave remains to be seen .

7. Will my old Freeview equipment be updated to be Play enabled?

Almost certainly not. Sorry.

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