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Freeview gets £125m funding boost to develop on-demand service and mobile app

Monday, June 11th 2018 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The broadcasters behind Freeview have agreed a new five-year deal that will see them invest £125 million in the service.

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and network operator Arqiva, the four shareholders of Digital UK, are looking to build on the success of Freeview Play, the subscription-free connected TV service launched in 2015.

More than three-and-a-half million Freeview Play products from brands including Panasonic, LG, Sony and Toshiba have been sold over the past three years, accounting for 60% of smart TV sales. Freeview is the UK’s largest TV platform with about 19 million households watching the service on either their main television or a secondary screen.

The new investment will guarantee ongoing support for the Freeview platform as well as fund the development of a new mobile app, which will allow viewers to access live and on-demand content on phones and tablets. This is set to launch later this year.

Digital UK is also working to add restart functionality, which allows you to watch a programme from the start when you’ve switched on half way through, using catch-up links built into the Freeview Play TV guide.

Freeview Play viewers can also expect voice search to be added to the service’s list of features in the near future.

'New age of viewing'

The new developments are a response to the changing way that people consume TV and the growing threat of US streaming services Netflix and Amazon.

Jonathan Thompson, CEO of Digital UK, said: ‘As the UK’s TV landscape becomes increasingly impacted by global players, this new commitment from our shareholders is a major boost for UK viewers.

“Building on this spirit of collaboration, we will not only safeguard free-to-view TV but reinvent it for a new age of viewing.”

As well as investing in Freeview, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have also been busy developing their own catch-up services, with the ITV Hub and All 4 undergoing significant rebrands in recent years.

The BBC opened up a huge archive of classic TV shows last September, making thousands of hours of footage available on the iPlayer as well as online.

And football fans with 4K TVs will be grateful for the Beeb’s latest trial, as the broadcaster will be showing live coverage of 29 World Cup matches in Ultra HD and HDR on the iPlayer.

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