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Freeview explained

Freeview explained

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Last updated: 10 February 2022

Freeview is a free TV service that anyone can access if they have a TV licence. Find out what channels it offers and about Freeview Play with our guide. 

What is Freeview?

Freeview is the UK’s terrestrial digital television service. It offers the most popular TV channels and radio stations across the board, straight to your screen. If you have an additional TV package with a provider, often you’ll be able to pause, rewind or record shows shown on Freeview via a central box.

Freeview is received via an aerial on your house and can also be accessed through personal video recorders. In a nutshell, it’s the most basic package of channels that’s accessible to anyone with a TV.

Do I need a subscription for Freeview?

You don’t need a subscription for Freeview! They have a say-it-how-it-is approach to branding: viewing is free. However, you will need to make sure your household has a valid TV licence, which currently costs £157.50 per year (we know, is the 50p really necessary?). You can pay for this in monthly instalments or upfront. Watching live TV without a licence is against the law and if you’re caught, you could face a £1,000 fine.

What channels will I get on Freeview?

Here’s a comprehensive overview of the channels you’ll get with Freeview:

BBC One - BBC Two – ITV - Channel 4 - Channel 5 - ITV 2  - BBC ALBA - Local TV - BBC Four - ITV3 – Pick – QUEST - E4 - Film4 - Channel 4+1 – QVC – Really - More 4 – Dave – Drama - 5 USA - Ideal World – CCXTV - ITV4 – Yesterday – ITVBe - ITV2 +1 - E4+1 - 4Music - 5STAR – Paramount Network - Sony Movies - ITV +1 - ITV3+1 - QVC Beauty - QVC Style – DMAX - Quest Red - CBS Justice - Sony Movies Action - Food Network – HGTV - Gems TV - Channel 5+1 - Film4+1 – Challenge - 4seven - Sony Channel – TJC - Sony Movies Classic - TG4 - RTÉ One - RTÉ Two - 5SELECT - 5STAR+1 - 5USA+1 - Smithsonian Channel - ITVBe+1 - ITV4+1 - Sony Movies +1 - Sony Channel +1 - Sony Movies Classic +1 – Blaze – FreeSports - TBN UK - CBS Reality - CBS Reality +1 - CBS Justice +1 - Horror Channel - CBS Drama - Quest Red+1 - Jewellery Maker - Shopping Quarter - Yesterday+1 - QUEST+1 -TCC - NOW 70s - Dave ja vu - Blaze+1 - TalkingPictures TV - Clubland TV - NOW 80s – Hochanda - More4+1 - Spotlight TV - Together TV - Together TV+1 - TV Warehouse - PBS America - Pick+1 - PBS America +1 - Create & Craft - Forces TV – Freeview.

As you’ll see, many of the most popular channels are available on +1, so if you miss the beginning of your show you can catch up later!

Can I add extra channels to Freeview?

While there is a healthy dose of channels offered with Freeview, you’d be forgiven for feeling there’s something missing. You might have a handful of favourites which you wish you could just flick over to.

Many providers will allow you to supplement your TV deal with additional channels, such as sports or cinema packages (find the best TV packages on our site). You’ll pay for these as a monthly rolling contract, which you can cancel anytime. One particular option is to buy a NOW pass, which gives you access to certain channels for a month. For example, the Entertainment pass provides you with heaps of Entertainment channels and Sky Cinema, delivering a host of additional content to your box.

What is Freeview Play?

Freeview Play is an online platform allowing you to access Freeview content on demand and watch TV online. You can flick back through shows aired over the previous week and stream them online, all for free! You’ll access over 70 channels as well as 15HD ones.

It allows you 20,000 hours of free catch up material, in addition to the on-demand services BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, and four others.

How do I get Freeview Play?

To get Freeview Play, you’ll first need a Freeview Play TV or recorder. Prices for boxes start from £79.99 via the Freeview website, but you may be able to find set-top boxes cheaper from a range of manufacturers such as Sony, LG, Panasonic and Philips, to name a few.

Once you have the box, there are no further costs – you’ll be able to access all Freeview Play content. The technology is interesting: it’s been designed as open source, so manufacturers can tailor their offering. For example, some manufacturers can choose to make services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video accessible via their set-top box or TV. Of course, you’ll need to have a subscription to these streaming services to enjoy their content, but this is actually an increasingly popular TV-watching setup.

What else does Freeview Play offer?

On your Play homepage, a neat function called Freeview Explore has been introduced. Rather than being based on your viewing habits and preferences, this page showcases handpicked shows from each broadcaster, so you can begin your exploration to finding a new series.

But there’s also an app that’s completely free to download, so you can actually use it without a Freeview Play box or TV. That means all your favourite on-demand services in one app, as well as live TV. You also have the option to plan your week’s viewing, handpicking your favourite shows.

Last, Freeview Play’s Accessible Guide is now available on some devices at channel 555, helping those with hearing or sight difficulties find content more easily. Its innovation won it a Gold for Advancing User Experience at the Connected TV Awards.


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Danny Lord

Author: Danny Lord

Danny is our Editor-in-Chief, and has been writing news and guides for comparison sites for the last five years.