What is Freeview?

ByKim Staples
Family watching TV

Once upon a time, a standard TV could only pick up five channels. But since the digital switchover, the number’s now jumped up to over 60 - and that’s thanks to Freeview.

What is Freeview?

It's the basic, free digital TV you can get in the UK. It doesn't require any kind of monthly subscription - just a TV set, an aerial, and a TV licence - and gives you the minimum number of channels you can get on telly. That's around 70 channels or so.

Freeview was founded in 2002, and it became the default way to receive basic TV after the digital switchover in 2012. It's what's known as DTT - digital terrestrial television.

Modern TVs have a Freeview tuner built right into them, but if you want a few more features - like recording from Freeview+, catch-up TV from Freeview Play, and apps like BBC Sport - you can get a separate, more advanced set-top box. That'll cost you anything from £25 to £200.

For anyone who just wants a bit of TV to watch every now and then, it's ideal; but serious telly fans will find it a bit lacking. There aren't any on-demand box sets, recommendations, or premium channels here, for instance. You'll only get those with a proper pay-TV package from Sky, Virgin Media, BT, or TalkTalk, even if it's just a cheap one.

Which is best: Freeview, Freesat, or YouView?

What channels can I get with Freeview?

You get somewhere between 60 and 70 channels with Freeview, depending on your location. They are…

Entertainment, lifestyle, factual BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITV2, BBC Four, ITV3, Pick, Dave, More4, Really, Yesterday, Drama, 5USA, ITV4, Home, ITVBe, E4, 5STAR, Spike, Quest, Food Network, Challenge, Four7, My5, True Entertainment, CBS Action, CBS Reality, Tru TV, Horror Channel, CBS Drama, Your TV, Blaze, Community Channel, Travel Channel
Music Chart Show TV, 4Music, Viva
International and regional S4C, BBC Alba, TG4, RTE One, RTE Two
News and sport BBC News, BBC Parliament, Sky News, RT
Film Film4, Sony Movie Channel, Movies4Men, True Movies, Talking Pictures TV
Kids CBBC, Cbeebies, CITV, Pop, Tiny Pop, Kix
Shopping QVC, Ideal World, Create and Craft, QVC Beauty, QVC Style, Rocks and Co, Gems, The Jewellery Channel, Jewellery Maker, Hochanda, Sewing Quarter
Religion TBN UK

As well as all that, you also get a few +1 versions, around 15 HD channels, various local channels (like Estuary TV and Sheffield Live), adult channels, and 30 or so digital radio stations.

So you get a decent range, but a lot of great telly is still missing. There's no Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Comedy Central, GOLD, Discovery, Cartoon Network, or sports - you'll need to take out a full TV package for those.

Featured TV and broadband deals

TalkTalk
BT
Sky
Virgin Media
TV with Fast Broadband and Sky Cinema Starter + Unlimited Infinity 1 + Weekend Calls Original Bundle + Fibre Full House TV Bundle
£456.40 Total first year cost £470.87 Total first year cost £533.95 Total first year cost £680.00 Total first year cost
£35.95 p/m for 12 months £25.00 setup costs 12 month contract £35.49 p/m for 12 months £44.99 setup costs 12 month contract £42.00 p/m for 18 months £29.95 setup costs 18 month contract £55.00 p/m for 12 months £20.00 setup costs 12 month contract
Up To 17 Mb Up To 52 Mb Up To 38 Mb Up To 200 Mb
Pay as you go Weekend calls inc. Pay as you go Weekend calls inc.
Channels 87 Channels 84 Channels 114 Channels 258
Fixed Price Guarantee Offer ends 19/10/17 £120 BT Reward Card - see BT's website for further details Offer ends 28/09/17 Sky Q box! Offer ends 28/09/17 V6 TiVo Box
Go
Call TalkTalk on 0800 049 7843
Mon to Thurs 8am-10pmFri to Sun 8am-9pm
Go
Call BT on 0800 783 5390
Mon to Sun 8am-6.30pm
Go
Call Sky on 0800 759 1469
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm
Go
Call Virgin Media on 0808 168 6088
Open 24/7

Compare all TV packages

What's good about Freeview?

  • It's free
  • Widely available - 98.5% of the population can get it
  • Huge variety of Freeview set top boxes and TVs
  • 60+ channels means you've got all the basics and then some
  • Around 15 HD channels included
  • 7-day catch-up and recording available with certain set-top boxes

What's bad about Freeview?

  • It only offers the absolute minimum number of channels
  • Lots are missing, like Sky channels, Discovery, and GOLD
  • Can't get Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, or BT Sport
  • On-demand is very limited compared to premium packages
  • Set-top boxes aren't as good as Sky Q or Virgin Media TiVo

 

Topics: Digital TV Deals

Mobile phones

Find the perfect deal for you!