Freely, backed by major U.K. broadcasters, launches

A new free streaming service in the U.K. launched April 29, 2024, appropriately named Freely

Backed by BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Paramount Global’s Channel 5, Freely is the latest in a series of free ad-supported streaming television offerings to hit the market in Europe.

For the first time, audiences can stream live TV channels from its partners alongside on-demand content for free via compatible TVs, removing the need for a dish or antenna. 

The selection of channels varies based on whether the viewer is in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Audio-only radio content is also available.

There are some significant limitations with Freely, at least at launch. First, the service will only work on compatible televisions at launch.

Despite being called “Freely” and billed as a “free” offering, the service still requires subscribers pay a TV license fee in the U.K. This fee is the same one that funds many of the partner broadcaster’s operations and homes in the U.K. that own a TV that receives broadcast signals are already required to pay it. There are no additional fees once the license has been paid for.

“The launch of Freely is a historic moment for UK television. Collaboration between the UK PSBs is critical to connecting and protecting all audiences as we transition towards the streaming era — and delivering live TV over broadband for free is a ground-breaking innovation that will futureproof public service broadcasting,” said Kieran Clifton, BBC’s director of distribution and business development, in a statement.

Hisense, previously announced as the first Freely smart TV partner, brings Freely TVs to market today in the U.K. TVs will be available in stores and online at retailers such as Currys, Argos, AO and Very.

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TiVo will also be offering Freely as part of its TiVo OS platform. Freely will run on smart TVs Powered by TiVo, providing consumers with choice and a simple navigation to discover content quickly and efficiently without the burden of walled gardens. Initially Freely will be available via Vestel smart TVs Powered by TiVo. Vestel was previously announced as a Freely smart TV partner, with Vestel Freely TVs due to launch in the coming weeks.

For a logo, Freely uses a clean geometric sans serif font with a distinctive “y” that looks a bit like a combination of a “v” and diagonal stroke (and isn’t unlike the open source font Titillum). There are also two dots in a distinct shade of red along with a curved stroke that looks like it was borrowed from the wifi symbol.

Freely hinted that future distribution deals and operating systems will be coming soon, though it’s not clear if it will become available via apps for platforms such as iOS, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Google TV and others, or on any connected TV platforms.