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Freeview to receive £125m investment to go ‘fully hybrid’

The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and network operator Arqiva have agreed to invest £125 million (€142 million) over five years to accelerate UK digital terrestrial platform Freeview’s transition to “a fully hybrid platform”.

The four Digital UK shareholders said they aim to further develop Freeview Play, the DTT platform that marries free-to-view terrestrial TV and catch-up services in a range of TVs and set-top boxes.

The Digital UK-led plans include a new mobile app that will allow viewers to access live and on-demand content on a range of smartphones and tablets. This is slated to launch later this year.

Other key developments include a restart functionality that will allow viewers to click catch-up links within the Freeview Play TV guide to start a show from the beginning, improved voice search navigation and a “further evolution” of the Freeview Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) on TVs.

“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,” said Digital UK CEO, Jonathan Thompson.

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

Digital UK will take the lead on implementing the new strategy and said it will work closely with Freeview on a “refreshed marketing approach and brand positioning”.

It added that investment will help Freeview adjust to changing viewing habits and “exploit the trend towards cord cutting” as viewers look to build their own TV bundles by combining free-to-view TV with low-cost streaming services.

Digital UK is the company that manages strategy, policy and service development for digital terrestrial television in the UK. It provides day-to-day technical management of the Freeview Electronic Programme Guide, led the development of Freeview Play and is owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva.

Freeview claims that since it launched Freeview Play launched in 2015 more than 3.5 million of these devices have been sold in the UK from brands including Panasonic, LG, Sony, and Toshiba, accounting for 60% of smart TV sales.