Freeview to launch connected TV service

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The BBC is backing a Freeview-branded connected television service that will be developed over the next five years.

The service, which has a working title of Freeview Connect, will be subscription-free and include digital TV channels already offered by Freeview, plus catch-up services such as iPlayer, ITV Player and 4oD.

The deal - reportedly worth around £100m - was announced by Freeview and Digital UK, a company that is owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Arqiva.

The aim is for manufacturers to eventually launch a new range of connected Freeview HD televisions and boxes that consumers will be able to buy in-store.

People will be able to watch the service via their TV aerial and current broadband provider without being tied to a contract.

Guy North, the managing director of Freeview, said: 'Freeview is at the heart of the nation's viewing and I'm proud to be leading the company into the next chapter of its history.

'People know and love the Freeview brand and will trust us to help them enjoy watching catch-up and on-demand TV in the future, alongside the high quality channels that Freeview already offers.'

The details on the service's launch and its brand name are still to be confirmed.

Rival services

Freeview Connect will inevitably come into competition with YouView, an internet-connected TV service that also combines Freeview digital channels with on-demand content.

The BBC - together with Channel 4, ITV and transmission company Arqiva - is a shareholder in both, although it has been reported that the BBC and the other public service broadcasters have reduced their investment in YouView recently.

The BBC has refused to comment on its financial commitment to the rival service or to disclose how much money it has invested in Freeview Connect.

Only last month, the BBC Trust backed the BBC's involvement in YouView, which has faced criticism because of claims that shareholders BT and Talk Talk have turned it into a pay-TV business, committing customers to subscription bundles or broadband services.

The trust said YouView - which was launched two years ago as a free-to-air platform - must introduce new specifications so that content could be delivered 'without being required to use BT or Talk Talk's delivery network'.

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