Freesat - what's it all about?

A few options are available when you don’t fancy paying for TV every month, and one of them is Freesat. It’s a contract-free kind of telly that uses satellite… and gives you more channels than standard Freeview. Here’s the lowdown.

What is Freesat?

It's a free-to-air TV system that gives you even more channels than Freeview does. Unlike Freeview, however, Freesat works via satellite - meaning you can get a few extra channels that aren't available for free any other way, like PBS America, BET, and tons of music TV.

There's no monthly subscription - all you need is a satellite dish and a Freesat box on your telly (£50-£220). Once you've bought those and paid for installation, that's all you'll ever need to pay to get your extra channels.

Freesat is great for getting a little bit more TV, but there's still a lot missing - like premium channels and a comprehensive on-demand library. It's best for households that struggle to get decent Freeview reception. If you want fairly basic TV but with a little extra, on the other hand, we'd recommend signing up to telly from Virgin Media, Sky, BT, or TalkTalk instead.

Satellite dish

What channels do you get with Freesat?

You get lots. Over 200 of 'em, in fact. That's more than you'll find on regular Freeview, which has about 70, but not as many as you can get from Virgin Media (245+) or Sky (350+).

All your basics are ready and present, including all the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and 5 suites, plus lots of music, news, kids' TV, and some lovely shopping channels.

You won't find any premium channels though, so you'll miss out on the likes of Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Comedy Central, Dave, National Geographic, Eurosport, Discovery, Nickelodeon, and so on. You'll need to take out a full TV package if you want those.

Here are the channels you get:

Entertainment, factual, lifestyle BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4, 5, BBC Four, BBC Alba, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, ITVBe, S4C, E4, More 4, Four7, 5 USA, 5STAR, My5, CBS Drama, CBS Reality, CBS Action, Horror Channel, BET, Spike, True Entertainment, True Crime, Pick, Challenge, Food Network, Travel Channel, Tru TV, PBS America, Your TV, Dave, Drama, Yesterday, Really, Showcase TV, Blaze, Home, Quest, Quest Red, regional channels.
News and sport BBC News, BBC Parliament, Sky News, Al Jazeera, France 24, RT, CNN, Bloomberg, NHK World, CNBC, CGTN, BBC News, Channels 24, Arirang, Front Runner, FreeSports, Motorsport TV
Movies Film 4, True Movies, Movies 4 Men, Talking Pictures TV
Music The Vault, Heart TV, Capital TV, Keep It Country
Kids CBBC, CBeebies, CITV, Pop, Pop Max, Tiny Pop
Special interest and religious Inspiration TV, DAYSTAR, Revelation, God Channel, Sonlife TV
Shopping QVC, QVC Beauty, QVC Extra, QVC Style, Gems TV, JML, JewelleryMaker.com, TJC, Ideal World, Create and Craft, Hochanda, Juwelo UK
On demand BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Demand 5, Netflix, Rakuten TV, Pop Fun, Ketchup TV, YouTube, STV Player, TVPlayer Plus, BBC Sport, BBC News.

13 of those channels are available in HD too, and loads have +1 versions available on the service as well. Plus, on top of TV you'll get around 40 radio stations through your telly, including BBC Radio, Capital FM, RTE, and Absolute.

Most Freesat boxes also come equipped with apps like Netflix, YouTube, catch-up from the BBC, and more - but you'll need to connect your box to the internet to get these.

And bear in mind that the exact range of channels tends to change every few months or so. It's best to check the Freesat website for the most up-to-date listings.

The Boxes

If you decide to use Freesat, naturally, you’ll want the best box to watch it on. Here’s some of your options:

First up is the Manhattan SX, which you can pick up fairly cheaply. Put simply, it’s the easiest way to navigate your TV service, making it perfect for anyone who wants to access TV without any fuss or bother.

Then there’s the HB-1100S; with built in Wi-Fi , and roll-back EPG - Electronic Program Guide for those without a degree in tech - it’s easy to watch programmes on demand and on WiFi. Oh, and here’s a handy tip; if you have an old TV in your house, getting this box could be a great way to get smart-TV functionality.

The Humax HDR-1100S is Freesat’s most popular box. A 2TB version lets you record up to 1,000 hours of TV and access hundreds of shows on Netflix. You can also pick up 500GB and 1TB box.

What's good about Freesat?

  • It's got more channels than regular old Freeview, including a good few in HD
  • Basic 7-day catch-up is available
  • No need to pay a monthly subscription, just a one-off cost for the box
  • Available basically everywhere, since it's satellite
  • Ideal if you have bad TV reception in your area

What's bad about Freesat?

  • You need a satellite dish
  • Installation can be expensive
  • Loads of good channels are still missing - like Comedy Central, Dave, and the Sky suite
  • Can't add Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, or BT Sport
  • On-demand TV is severely limited compared to a premium package
  • Picture can be affected by bad weather
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