Major British broadcasters have jointly announced their latest venture: the creation of a new free TV service that will deliver live TV via broadband.

This marks a significant milestone as British audiences will, for the first time at no cost, have convenient access to both live TV channels and on-demand content streamed directly to their smart TVs through the internet.

This development places the dissemination of free TV at the forefront of the streaming era. The new service will offer millions of homes with broadband-only access a unified and consistent experience for live free TV over IP. Viewers will have the seamless ability to navigate channels through a modern and user-friendly programme guide, alongside innovative features designed to simplify the discovery of new shows directly from live TV.

Scheduled for release in 2024, the new service, named Freely, will be integrated into the upcoming generation of smart TVs and will feature a selection of content from public service broadcasters and other free-to-air channels. It will emulate the experience of terrestrial TV, building upon the legacy and popularity of the current Freeview TV platform used in 16 million households.

As viewers increasingly consume content online, this next phase for free TV addresses the distribution and accessibility of PSBs’ live channels in the streaming age. It will help secure the availability of PSB services in the future, complementing the new provisions for on-demand and streaming prominence outlined in the draft Media Bill.

Freely is under development by Everyone TV, the organisation responsible for overseeing free TV in the UK, jointly owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5.

Jonathan Thompson, Everyone TV chief executive, says: “We are delighted to be working with the public service broadcasters on the next phase of free TV’s evolution. This new development is a reflection of the fact that a growing number of UK viewers are watching content online, but still want easy access to the shared experience of live TV.

“Our aim is to ensure that all viewers have access to a free, aggregated live TV experience that champions British content and is delivered in a way that suits audience needs and preferences. Every one of us should be able to share in the best of British ideas and creativity on TV.”

Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC, says: “Ensuring the universality of public-service television is sustained into the future is of paramount importance to the UK and all its public service broadcasters. We are delighted to be deepening our collaboration in helping viewers access our content, ensuring that, in a digital age, we deliver value for all audiences and that no one is left behind.”

Dame Carolyn McCall, CEO, of ITV, says: “As more and more UK households use internet-connected TVs, it’s critical that the public service broadcaster channels remain available and easy for them to find. This new collaboration enables the UK public to continue to get all of their favourite British TV channels, for free – just as Freeview did at the advent of digital TV. Alongside the important reforms set out in the draft Media Bill, it will help PSBs to continue to thrive for years to come.”

Alex Mahon, CEO, of Channel 4, says: “Streaming TV is increasingly the new normal for audiences, particularly young viewers, so it has never been more important for trusted PSB content to be readily available to everyone, for free. We look forward to working closely with our PSB partners so that when the Media Bill’s prominence provisions become law, the technology to make Britain’s favourite TV shows easy to find will already be in place.”

Maria Kyriacou, President of Broadcast & Studios, International Markets at Paramount, says: “We know that British audiences continue to have a strong appetite for the high quality, relevant and impartial content provided by our UK public service broadcasters such as Channel 5. This new collaboration across the PSBs will ensure that, as these viewers continue to shift to IP-enabled televisions, they continue to have an easy way to access the channels and content they know and love.”