Remember the days when a standard TV could only pick up five channels? We do. It was horrible. Thankfully, since the digital switchover, that number has jumped up to more than 60 - and that’s all 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.
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, TCC, 5SELECT, Horror Channel, CBS Drama, Sony Crime Channel, Paramount Network, Your TV, Blaze, Community Channel, Travel Channel, Travelxp.
International and regional
S4C, BBC Alba, TG4, RTE One, RTE Two
News and sport
BBC News, BBC Parliament, Sky News, RT
Film4, Sony Movie Channel, Movies4Men, True Movies, Talking Pictures TV
CBBC, Cbeebies, CITV, Pop, Tiny Pop, Pop Max
QVC, Ideal World, Create and Craft, QVC Beauty, QVC Style, Rocks and Co, Gems, The Jewellery Channel, Jewellery Maker, Hochanda, Sewing Quarter
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.
*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time(8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.
When it comes to boxes, Freeview has various available to use, at numerous price levels.
You can pick up the Manhattan T1 Freeview HD Set Top Box relatively cheaply. Although it doesn’t come with a lot of swanky mod-cons, this neat little box is one of the most user-friendly you can buy to access subscription-free TV. Simply save your favourite channels and find them without any fuss or bother.
If you’re feeling lavish, you could fork out for a Humax FVP-5000T 1TBFreeview Play HD TV Recorder box. This box is kitted out with all the bells and whistles; 3 HD tuners, a smooth user interface, built-in Netflix, and it’ll even let you record up to four programmes at the same time. Plus, by installing the Humax Live TV iOS or Android App, you can get reminders and plan your recordings from your phone.
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
Freeview not for you? There’s plenty of other options out there. Take YouView, for example. It’s like Freeview, but with a few extra perks:
- Perk 1: With YouView, you get access to a plethora of sky sports and movie channels including membership to Sky Cinema.
- Perk 2: It’s nice to use. In fact, it boasts one of the smoothest user-friendly interfaces optimised to work with screen reader apps on your smartphone.
- Perk 3: A YouView box is usually included at no extra cost with certain so, if you’re thinking of taking out a contract with either BT or TalkTalk, you could save a bit of money.