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What is Freely? UK’s new free rival to Sky TV explained

What is Freely? New TV service explained (Image: FREELY)

TV addicts in the UK now have a brand new way to tune in and watch content for free in their living rooms. Freely has just gone live across Britain with this simple-to-use streaming service offering full access to live TV and on-demand content without needing an aerial drilled into chimneys. Freely has been created by Everyone TV, that’s the same team behind popular services such as Freeview and Freesat so they certainly have a plethora of knowledge when it comes to distrusting content.

It’s also backed by all UK’s main terrestrial broadcasters including the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 with all of these content providers available on Freely from day one.

With it now coming built into a swathe of new TVs it will also go head to head with Sky’s premium Glass TV – that’s also an all-in-one device that uses broadband to access live programming.

If Freely sounds enticing, here’s everything you need to know about this latest service including what’s being shown, how to watch and if it really matches Sky.

Freely TV explained

Freely offers full access to live TV (Image: FREELY)

What is Freely?

Freely is a new TV service that is streamed to homes rather than sent via traditional over-the-air signals that are then received via aerials. Users wanting to watch live entertainment, sports and movies simply need to connect their TVs to their Wi-Fi to tune in.

That makes it perfect for those living in flats or wanting to watch live content in parts of their home that have no aerial access.

Along with showing what’s on right now, Freely also offers access to a swathe of on-demand content with top recommendations showing up on the home screen.

There’s also a full 7-day guide along with a MiniGuide that pops up to offer quick access to channels along with displaying what’s coming up next.

Freely is a new TV service that is streamed to homes rather than sent via traditional over-the-air signals

Another nice feature is the option to pause live telly for up to 15 minutes – perfect if a neighbour knocks on the door. Once you’re ready to start watching again you simply hit the play button to continue the action.

Other extras include the option to find favourite shows via a search function plus you get full access to platforms such as BBC iPlayer and ITVX within the Freely app. The user interface is clear and easy to navigate plus you can quickly find other episodes of your favourite shows with a few taps on the remote.

What sets Freely apart from standard streaming apps is that it works just like a TV connected to an aerial. That means you can easily flick between live TV channels without launching different applications – that’s something that’s not been possible before over a broadband connection.

What is Freely

Freely wil come included on some new TVs (Image: FREELY)

How much does Freely cost?

As the name suggests, Freely is totally free to watch. That means as long as you have a TV Licence there are no further subscriptions to pay or monthly fees coming out of your bank account.

The only thing you will need is a fully-compatible TV. Once that screen has been purchased there’s nothing more to pay – but currently, there are no Freely TVs on sale, and there’s no confirmation on pricing.

What channels can you watch on Freely?

At launch, things are pretty limited. Freely says that around 30 channels such as BBC 1, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5, Film4, 5US, CBBC and CBeebies are now available to stream with more being added at a later date.

It’s hoped that UKTV will launch its services soon which will add popular channels like Dave, W, Gold and Yesterday to the Freely planner. Watch this space.

What is Freely

Freely uses broadband to beam content to the screen (Image: FREELY)

What broadband speed do you need for Freely?

Freely says that anyone with a standard broadband connection should be able to stream TV. In fact, the firm reckons 10Mbps speeds should be ample. The current UK average for homes is around 70Mbps which means the majority of properties shouldn’t have any issues using Freely.

One of the reasons why this platform works with such slow broadband speeds is that, unlike Netflix and Disney+, there are no Ultra UHD 4K streams available.

You can only watch content in Standard Definition or High Definition formats which use less bandwidth when streaming.

What is Freely

Freely offers access to (Image: FREELY)

What TVs does Freely work on?

You can’t use Freely on existing TVs. Instead, Freely is coming pre-installed in a series of new televisions that are going on sale soon. Hisense was one of the first to confirm that its future screens will be Freely ready. That means the app comes fully built-in meaning there’s no need for separate set-top boxes or dongles taking up HDMI slots.

Other manufacturers including Toshiba, JVC and Bush are expected to join the party so watch out for more updates about which tellies will include Freely.

We’ll update this article with pricing information when more TVs are released onto the UK market. It has been confirmed that all the UK’s biggest high-street retailers will stock Freely screens in the future.

Can you install Freely on current equipment?

Sadly, Freely isn’t coming to current or older TVs on the market. That means you’ll have to buy a new screen if you fancy using this new service. There are currently no plans to launch it on devices such as Fire TV Sticks, the Apple TV, phones or tablets.

Sky introduce new streaming TV ‘Sky Glass’ in 2021

Does Freely really rival Sky Glass?

Freely is very similar to Sky Glass with both platforms coming built into the TV itself. As we mentioned, this means there’s no need for separate devices to tune into live and on-demand shows.

Freely and Sky Glass both offer instant access to a swathe of content via a broadband connection plus they include a TV guide and recommendations of popular things to watch. What sets Sky Glass apart from Freely are some of the bonus features included on this screen. These include useful personalisations for each member of the family which means parents will have different recommendations to that of their children.

Sky Glass also offers a Playlists function that allows owners to add content to watch at a later date. It’s a bit like a recording function, except it uses the cloud rather than a physical hard disk to store shows.

Freely doesn’t get voice search, something that works well on Glass, and Sky’s offering also integrates content from other platforms such as Netflix and Disney+. The final difference is the amount of content available. Sky Glass has hundreds of live channels to watch – that’s compared to around 30 Freely is releasing at launch.

Watch out for the delay!

One final thing to note about Freely is the delay in receiving the live broadcast. This can be up to 30 seconds longer than watching via a standard aerial. It’s not a problem when viewing regular television but it can be annoying during live sporting events as you may find friends texting you about a goal scored long before you’ve actually seen the ball hit the back of the net.

It’s also a problem faced by Sky Glass users although Sky is attempting to reduce the lag down to around 8 seconds in the future.

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