What Is Freeview TV?
Freeview TV is a service provided to residents of the United Kingdom (UK) by DTV Services Ltd, which is a partnership between the BBC, BSkyB Channel 4, ITV and Arqiva. It's a collection of 48+ digital TV channels and 24 digital music channels. All channels are free, hence the name Freeview TV.
For American readers, Freeview TV is to the UK what satellite or digital cable would be to you -- only that Freeview TV is free, digital cable and satellite are not. The only charges associated with Freeview TV service include the Freeview TV digital receiver, SCART cable, and aerial antenna.
Who Gets Freeview TV?
Freeview TV is delivered in the same way as American broadcast TV -- by transmitters. You need an aerial antenna to receive Freeview TV signals. The Freeview website recommends using an outdoor antenna as opposed to an indoor antenna.
As of 2009, approximately 77% of the UK population was able to receive Freeview TV service with the goal being to get all UK residents access to the Freeview TV service, which probably won't happen until the UK's digital switchover completes sometime in 2012.
As far as equipment, there are several ways to gain access to Freeview TV -- digital video recorders, DVD recorders, non-recording Freeview TV receiver, and a TV with a built-in Freeview TV tuner.
The trick is to look for the digital tick logo on the product packaging, which means that the product contains a Freeview TV tuner.
What Programming is on Freeview TV?
Freeview TV is a collection of over 4-dozen entertainment, news, children's, lifestyle and music channels. The Freeview TV channel lineup is pretty impressive.
Much of the Freeview TV programming comes from the BBC's suite of channels and Sky TV news and sports. But, you also get a handful of niche channels, like 24-hours of music videos, shopping, and interactive channels.
Programming is all-digital, but not necessarily high definition (HD) digital. According to the Freeview TV website, only a handful of Freeview TV channels are broadcast in HD and only in the markets where the UK digital switchover has already occurred.
The benefit of Freeview TV for UK residents is that there isn't a monthly service fee for Freeview digital TV and music programming. The only cost associated with Freeview TV is a one-time charge for the Freeview TV set-top box and any other accessories you might need, like a SCART cable or outside aerial antenna.
Freeview TV from an American Perspective
From across the pond, Freeview TV looks like a wonderful service. I'm not blind to the fact that there are costs associated with Freeview, but nothing compared to a monthly service fee that you would need to pay for programming like Freeview in the United States.
The channel lineup is impressive, but it does have limitations when compared to pay TV services. That's to be expected. There is no comparison, however, between Freeview TV and free American broadcast TV.
In terms of programming, Freeview TV is light years ahead primarily because UK residents get access to dozens of more channels than a typical American gets with their antenna. In addition, most of the Freeview channels are niche driven like pay TV channels. American broadcast TV isn't niche driven. Instead, it targets a diverse audience.
Freeview also symbolizes something that we probably won't ever see in the United States - competing TV providers working with each other to give antenna-users access to free digital programming.
What might the American equivalent of Freeview look like? Maybe it would be something like Time Warner working with DirecTV and the broadcast networks to provide 50 essential channels that all people should have access to for free.
Trying to create the American version of Freeview is like comparing Albert Pujols to Babe Ruth -- fun for conversation but not realistic. The reality is that the United States broadcast industry is not setup like that in the UK.
Instead, where I think something like Freeview could appear in the USA is within digital TV's secondary channels.