For those who reside within the UK then there’s a very good probability you’ll be acquainted with Freeview, the UK’s free-to-air digital broadcaster.
When it first launched in 2002 the three way partnership between the UK’s greatest broadcasters was the one strategy to entry digital tv with out paying a month-to-month subscription for both a cable or satellite tv for pc subscription.
Fifteen years later the platform continues to be going robust, however now the main target is much less about getting individuals entry to digital tv (which is now the one choice after analogue was switched off in 2012), however extra about making it simpler to get individuals entry to video on-demand companies by way of the Freeview Play platform.
In essence Freeview Play’s purpose is to permit you to entry all the on-demand content material you could possibly presumably need with out having to go looking by means of separate apps to seek out them. It’s all there, contained inside the identical TV information.
Right here’s the way it all works.
[Update: Sony has just updated its TVs to support Freeview Play, making Samsung the only major manufacturer to not support the platform. The service is available on a number of Sony’s sets, including both 4K and HD models]
Begin with the information
The centre of the Freeview Play ecosystem is similar TV information (or Digital Program Information – EPG) that you simply’ve been utilizing for years. You possibly can scroll ahead to see what’s arising similar to you could possibly with Freeview historically, however what’s completely different with Freeview Play is that you could additionally scroll backwards.
Scrolling backwards lets you stream applications over the web by way of catch-up companies, though precisely how the interface is laid out will differ relying on what piece of you’re utilizing (extra on that later).
For instance, on the 2017 mannequin Panasonic tv we had been utilizing, every day is listed in columns, permitting you to scroll again horizontally to rapidly cowl a number of days. You then scroll up and down to select the actual program you need to watch.
Nevertheless, relying on the producer of the you’re utilizing the interface might work a lot in another way, as an alternative permitting you to scroll by means of applications by going left and proper, and scroll by means of completely different channels by heading up and down.
Though catch-up companies like iPlayer at the moment permit you to rapidly and simply restart a program that’s at the moment working, this performance isn’t out there by means of Freeview Play. Nevertheless, the Freeview group advised me it was a characteristic they’d be very considering implementing sooner or later.
Most-watched lined off
In accordance with the Freeview group, Play at the moment permits entry to the overwhelming majority of the most-watched reveals in Britain. BBC, ITV and Channel four, Channel 5 are on board, and extra not too long ago UKTV’s suite of channels had been added, permitting entry to UKTV Gold and Dave, amongst others.
With that stated, there are nonetheless some channels that aren’t included. Many of those are the sorts of channels you’d by no means need to watch catch-up companies for (reminiscent of buying channels like QVC), however pay TV channels just like the Sky portfolio are additionally lacking (since these are pay TV channels provided outdoors of Freeview).
Ideally it will be nice to see the service cowl 100% of TV within the nation, however the realities of the Pay TV market imply that is unlikely to ever be the case.
So much is dependent upon particular person catch-up companies
Though Freeview Play is aiming to current a clear unified expertise, it in the end depends on catch-up companies to offer its performance. Because of this if you scroll again by means of your EPG and choose a program, it would then launch its personal catch-up service to start taking part in it.
Whereas which means you continue to get the identical nice iPlayer service by means of Play, it does imply that there are some unlucky blind spots in programming.
You’re in all probability acquainted with events when the BBC may present a well-liked film on considered one of its channels, solely to have it by no means seem on its catch-up companies. Whereas that is straightforward to miss whereas iPlayer by means of its ordinary interface, the way in which Freeview Play lays out its programming chronologically makes these blind spots just a little extra apparent.
You’re not lacking out on content material that’s out there to stream at no cost elsewhere, however it’s an issue that would trigger some confusion for individuals in your family.
So much is dependent upon producers
We’ve explored this above with the way in which completely different program guides are laid out, however as a result of Freeview Play is a platform moderately than a single piece of software program, the expertise can differ lots between completely different items of and completely different producers.
With 19 out of the highest 20 producers now supporting Freeview Play, that’s a number of differentiation.
For probably the most half these variations quantity to easy adjustments like look and the way in which completely different sections are laid out, however typically they could be a little extra elementary.
For instance, sure televisions and set-top bins provide the skill to file upcoming applications to both a built-in onerous drive or an hooked up USB stick, however that is performance that’s been constructed on high of Freeview Play, moderately than being provided by the platform itself.
So though Freeview Play is a strong piece of software program, how properly it performs will in the end rely upon the it’s put in on, and it is best to all the time search for particular critiques of the in query moderately than merely counting on the inclusion of 4K.
Curation and search
Past the EPG, Freeview Play will even make makes an attempt to introduce you to content material you won’t be instantly acquainted with by way of its really useful part.
Right here you’ll discover curated lists of applications sorted by style, which Freeview hopes will permit you to discover new stuff to observe, even when it’s on a channel that you simply wouldn’t usually frequent.
Nevertheless, if you wish to discover some content material you’re already acquainted with, then Freeview additionally has intensive search performance inbuilt to permit you to discover it as rapidly and simply as potential, no matter what channel it’s on.
After we looked for a present that we knew was out there throughout a number of channels, Freeview Play definitely discovered all situations of the present, however it was just a little random with the way it displayed this info. It shouldn’t be an issue for many reveals, however should you’re looking for some Nice British Bake Off to observe, then the quantity of re-runs being proven throughout completely different channels may confuse the software program.
It’s all the time evolving
The world of tv has gone by means of some fairly large adjustments not too long ago, with the transfer in direction of streaming companies and away from conventional broadcast tv, and extra not too long ago the introduction of recent applied sciences reminiscent of Ultra HD and HDR.
Fortunately, Freeview Play is a continually evolving platform, which is able to enable it to embrace these new applied sciences as and after they grow to be out there. We’ve already heard that Freeview is considering integrating the flexibility to restart a reside program, however there’s much more to come back.
The catch, as above, is that this can rely on broadcasters to begin supporting them, and producers to replace their .
Preliminary indicators appear good nevertheless. Freeview Play has been geared up to take care of 4K since its inception, and the 2017 specification of the platform contains help for the broadcast-ready HDR commonplace Hybrid Log Gamma.
When broadcasters finally begin making use of those new requirements, you could be sure Freeview Play received’t be far behind.