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PSB-backed streaming service Freely launches

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PSB-backed streaming service Freely launches

PSB bosses come together for Freely launch…

This week, Tim Davie (Director General, BBC), Dame Carolyn McCall (CEO, ITV), Alex Mahon (CEO, Channel 4) and Sarah Rose (President, Channel 5) came together to mark the launch of new streaming service Freely. They highlighted the importance of public service broadcasting, and the role Freely can play in its future.

Tim Davie commented on the power of public service broadcasters and their universality: “[…] People want to go to a service they can trust, they want to get to IP (internet protocol) with people they trust and this group has real care and at our heart, we are public service broadcasters. […] If you want to keep a society together, it’s having free access to these services, where prominence is not about the person who can pay the biggest check. […] The other thing is the editorial quality of local content. This group is unique in the world. We talk ourselves down as a country too often, but we are market leaders in this. I was in Europe last week and everyone is looking at what we’re doing and they absolutely see us as a world leader. We should double down in areas where we really have global strength and this is one of them. We have enough scale to compete and that’s an amazing thing.”

Freely brings the free TV experience into the streaming age, the company notes adding that, for the first time for free, viewers can switch seamlessly between live and on demand TV, taking advantage of features such as pause, restart and access to more episodes, without having to pay for the service.

Dame Carolyn McCall discussed Freely’s role in bringing British content to viewers:  “There’s a huge demand for British content compared to the streamers. The streamers wouldn’t have made Mr Bates vs. The Post Office or a lot of shows we do that are public service. They can be big hits, but they are still public service. […] Viewers want that, and every survey shows that British viewers really want to see more British content made about British issues, British families, etc. so that means this [Freely] is meeting a viewer need, it is making it very, very easy for viewers.”

Freely TVs can also be placed anywhere in the home where there’s a Wi-Fi connection, without the need for a dish or aerial. Freely ensures all audiences continue to have easy access to an aggregated free TV experience, however they choose to connect.

The first iterations of Freely are now in market, on Bush and Hisense 2024 4K smart TV models, with additional features and software updates being provided to users as the service develops.

Alex Mahon stressed the significance of free access to content and public trust: “People want free. It’s all well to talk about other subscription services, but people want free, especially when things aren’t looking so good. […] They don’t want thousands of services, but they do want to find content they trust. So, we have to evolve to make it easy for them to find trusted, truthful, impartial content. And, amazingly, we can operate together, because in France, Germany, and other countries they want to know how we’re doing this, they want to bring it to their audiences there. […] The UK PSB VOD players are growing, the growth rates this year are off the charts and that’s really important. That is a sign of audience demand for particularly British content […] In the battle for truth, that is the key thing that we must deliver. And we must change how we do it in order to deliver it.” 

Multiple new smart TV brands are joining the Freely line-up with Toshiba, Sharp, Panasonic and Metz all confirmed to offer the new streaming service. Freely can be accessed via a broadband and/or DTT connection. Homes connected via IP only and those using a hybrid IP and DTT connection may experience varying channel offerings as Freely continues to evolve.

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