I’ve tried Freely: here are five things I like and three things that could be improved

Freely TV
(Image credit: Everyone TV)

As it stands, TV services in the UK are either locked behind subscriptions or require an aerial, something many households are ditching in droves. Freely is an upcoming free TV service looking to change all of that. It has been developed by Everyone TV – a joint venture between BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5 – and is set to offer additional features and upgrades missing from existing services such as Freeview Play, the current iteration of free terrestrial TV service available in the UK. While we don’t know the exact date of Freely’s arrival, we have been told that it’s coming ‘very soon’, or even ‘imminently’, so keep your eyes peeled. 

With prices of streaming services constantly rising and many users turning away, a truly modern free TV service is great news. But what does Freely offer and why is it an improvement over existing services? Following our demo of Freely and trying it out firsthand, here are five things we are excited about, and a couple of things we hope to see improved or remedied following Freely’s launch.  

Like: pause and restart live TV

Some of the main functions offered by Freely are in fact ‘firsts’ for Free TV. This includes the ability to ‘pause’ live TV as well as ‘restart’ content on certain channels. At launch, users will have a 15-minute pause buffer, which is plenty of time to grab a snack or stick the kettle on. 

There won’t be any options for ‘rewinding’ or ‘fast-forwarding’ shows just yet, however, it’s very possible that Everyone TV could add these functions further down the line. More on that later…

Like: no aerial required

More than four million households in the UK, not an insignificant number by any means, don’t have a terrestrial TV aerial at all. This includes myself, meaning that Freeview is completely inaccessible to me. To help bring free TV into the modern day, Freely removes this barrier to entry – it requires only an internet connection. 

You won’t be forced to ditch your aerial, though. You can use it to scan channels in and assist with the set-up process if you wish; it’s genuinely excellent news, though, to hear that a free TV service requiring only an internet connection is on the horizon. 

Dislike: exclusive to Hisense TVs at launch

Hisense has been announced as Freely’s launch partner, meaning the service will be exclusive to the company’s TVs for the time being. Everyone TV has also revealed that its next partner is set to be Vestel and that they are in talks with other brands as they aim to spread access to Freely across all major TV models.

It’s a little disappointing to see a service that is all about accessibility be restricted to just one brand at launch; Hisense, at least, has been quoted as being the fastest-growing TV brand in the UK at the moment, and we expect to see Freely come to many more brands soon, so things should improve soon enough.

UPDATE: Metz has been in touch to point out that its MQE7600 series QLED TVs will feature Freely and will be available 'at the end of June'.

Freely TV

(Image credit: Everyone TV)

Like: Freely can be updated and upgraded 

EveryoneTV is very happy with Freely in its current state and is eager to share its new product with the UK; it is also excited, though, about the fact that the service can be upgraded as time goes on, unlike Freeview Play which is stuck in its current state. 

A few features are missing or limited as it stands, such as the absence of any ‘rewind’ or ‘fast-forward’ options, but it’s very likely that functions such as these will be added in the future. 

Dislike: users have to log in to each app separately 

It may disappoint some users to find out that they will be required to log in to each service provider separately (BBC iPlayer, ITVX, etc). This is because the content is deep-linked to the provider and simply played via the Freely platform. Anyone hoping for the same instant access as previous versions of Freeview will be sadly mistaken. 

This shouldn’t take up much of your time and hopefully should be a one-time-only process, but it’s a small gripe that I picked up on personally. Especially if you struggle to keep track of the endless different passwords you have for all of your online accounts. Everyone TV is exploring the possibility of a unified login process, but it’s not something anyone should expect any time soon.

Like: user interface and navigation 

The Freely interfaces and menus are a huge improvement over what is available with Freeview. The navigation of schedules and lists now feels closer to subscription services offered by the likes of Virgin and Sky, which most people have become accustomed to. 

Everything is very clean, clear, and easy to navigate, from scrolling through channels and reading the schedule for the day to flicking through recommendations. It’s a very welcome upgrade from the clunkier displays offered by previous iterations of free TV services. 

Dislike: suggestions are chosen editorially, not personalised

At launch, any suggestions or promoted content will be chosen editorially by the providers (such as BBC, ITV, and Channel 4) rather than being personalised based on your viewing preferences and habits. 

This is slightly frustrating, as content providers will be able to push the same recommended shows and series towards all users with no variance based on tastes or previous choices. Everyone TV specified that suggestions won’t be personalised at launch, so we are hopeful that this is something that could change at a later date. 

Like: low internet bandwidth requirements 

During the demo, the required network download speed was quoted as just 10Mbps. In April 2023, Ofcom reported the average download speed in the UK at around 70Mbps, meaning Freely should be easily accessible to almost anyone in the country with an internet connection. 


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Staff Writer

Ainsley Walker is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied music journalism at university before working in a variety of roles including as a freelance journalist and teacher. Growing up in a family of hi-fi enthusiasts, this naturally influenced his interest in the topic. Outside of work, Ainsley can be found producing music, tinkering with retro tech, or cheering on Luton Town.

  • Corpus_Chain
    You talk a lot about using this on the TV's operating system, but don't mention if you can use it on a PC (ideally in a web browser). Is that possible?
  • Ainsley Walker
    Hi @Corpus_Chain

    At this stage, Freely is purely a TV service and we're not aware of any plans for it to come to other platforms such as PCs.

    All the best,
  • Corpus_Chain
    Urgh... so much for it being "accessible."

    Thanks for the info.