BBC teams with rival broadcasters

BBC teams up with rival broadcasters to launch Freely service in bid to take on Netflix.

In TV’s streaming wars The BBC has joined forces with rival broadcasters to launch new streaming service Freely. This is in a bid to take on Netflix.

Freely is backed by the BBC, ITVChannel 4 and Channel 5 and delivers free-to-air TV to households across the country. The distribution is via broadband connections. 

The online service, which will be launched in the second quarter of this year, will combine live and on-demand programming. These services allow viewers to pause, rewind and watch shows from the start.

The move shows traditional broadcasters have started to fight back against streaming behemoths. Those such as Netflix and Disney, particularly as the viewing habits of the public changes.

Recent research from 3 Reasons shows more than half of UK homes will be expected to watch TV exclusively over the internet by 2030. 

The BBC and ITV currently offer live streaming on their on-demand services. However, Freely will allow viewers to watch Channel 4 and Channel 5 live on the internet for the first time.

Public service broadcasters have said that their future lies in offering services over the internet. However, they face an uphill battle against huge established services like Netflix. 

BBC director general Tim Davie warned last year that its terrestrial radio and TV services could be switched off within the next decade. 

He said a ‘switch off of broadcast will and should happen over time’ and that the BBC should be ‘active in planning for it’.

‘Imagine a world that is internet only, where broadcast TV and radio are being switched off and choice is infinite.

‘There’s still a lot of live linear viewing but it is all been delivered online.’

He suggested there is a ‘bad way [the switch off] could happen’. This is where access to the BBC is no longer universal or ‘unaffordable for too many’.

‘Where the gateway to content is owned by well capitalised overseas companies,’ he added. 

In order to avoid this the country must ‘close gaps and guarantee accessibility for all,’ he says. Going on to describe efforts by the Government to improve access to fixed-line broadband and 5G or 4G as ‘critical’.

The terrestrial broadcasters are launching Freely through their joint venture Everyone TV – the firm behind Freeview and Freesat Channels that reach more than 17 million British households.

Sarah Milton and Carl Pfeiffer, joint chief product officers at Everyone TV, said: ‘It’s clear the way people are watching TV is changing. More audiences are switching over to a broadband-only connection.

‘We’ve built Freely around the needs of British audiences, bringing them the freedom to choose how they want to watch. It is with all their favourite shows from the UK’s leading broadcasters all in one place for free.’

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