BBC, ITV, C4 & C5 to launch free TV streaming service called ‘Freely’ in 2024

Tim Davie (credit: RTS/Richard Kendal)

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have backed the creation of Freely, a free TV service set to launch next year in the UK that will allow viewers to watch live TV over broadband.

The service is being developed by Everyone TV, which runs free TV in the UK and is jointly owned by the broadcasters, and is aimed at replicating the terrestrial TV experience and “building on” the existing Freeview TV platform that is currently used in 16 million homes.

Freely will allow audiences to browse and watch live channels, as well as on demand content, via their smart TVs, with Everyone TV labelling the forthcoming service as “a single consistent experience for live free TV over IP”.

Carolyn McCall

Channels from all four broadcasters will be available through “a modern and intuitive programme guide” with “innovative functionality” to make it easier to find and explore new shows directly from live TV.

Jonathan Thompson, CEO at Everyone TV, described Freely’s development as “a reflection of the fact that a growing number of UK viewers are watching content online, but still want easy access to the shared experience of live TV.”

Thompson added: “Our aim is to ensure that all viewers have access to a free, aggregated live TV experience that champions British content and is delivered in a way that suits audience needs and preferences. Every one of us should be able to share in the best of British ideas and creativity on TV.”

The move is the latest attempt by UK broadcasters to compete with streamers such as Netflix and Prime Video, and ahead of proposed changes to the Media Bill, which is being drafted to modernise legislation to reflect the increase of streaming.

BBC chief Tim Davie said: “Ensuring the universality of public-service television is sustained into the future is of paramount importance to the UK and all its public service broadcasters. We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration in helping viewers access our content, ensuring that, in a digital age, we deliver value for all audiences and that no one is left behind.”

ITV CEO Carolyn McCall added that the collaboration “enables the UK public to continue to get all of their favourite British TV channels, for free – just as Freeview did at the advent of digital TV”.

It is not the first time that UK broadcasters have joined forces to adapt to streaming. The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 had attempted to launch a combined streamer 15 years ago, but the proposed service was blocked by the UK’s Competition Commission.

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