For anyone moving home or leaving a pay TV subscription there are two main options for receiving TV without a subscription: Freeview via an aerial or Freesat with a satellite dish. But which is the right choice for you?
Freeview with your existing TV aerial
Since digital switchover most homes in the UK can receive a line-up of popular Freeview channels with a rooftop TV aerial. Freeview is built-in to all new TVs and most TVs purchased in the last few years will include it too. If your TV is a bit older a cheap receiver can be plugged in – just like a Sky receiver or DVD player.
Freeview offers channels from the main UK broadcasters – including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. There are also channels dedicated to music, entertainment, films, documentaries, news, children’s programmes and shopping. In some parts of the UK there are local channels too, such as London Live or STV Glasgow. There’s also a line-up of radio stations and red button services.
You needn’t miss out on high definition either. BBC One, BBC Two, ITV and Channel 4 are all available in HD – but Channel 5 is not. There are nine other HD channels, but you will need a Freeview HD television or set top box to receive HD channels.
Many TV aerials were replaced during the digital switchover to take advantage of the new channels on offer. If yours is very old or hasn’t been installed correctly you may find that channels are missing when you set up your television. The Freeview website has a coverage checker to see what channels you might be able to receive and a suitably qualified installer will be able to advise in more detail.
Freeview has fewer channels than Freesat, but it does have channels which are not available on Freesat – such as Dave, Yesterday, Drama and 4Music.
Freesat with a satellite dish
For many people cancelling their Sky subscription the satellite dish which is already installed is perfect for Freesat. This can represent a saving if no installer needs to visit your home – you can simply unplug your Sky receiver and plug in a new Freesat receiver.
The line-up of channels is broadly similar to Freeview. All of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 services are there – including the +1 versions of More4 and ITV4. Some channels are not present – Dave, Drama, 4Music and Yesterday are missing, but Freesat boasts 16 music channels alone compared to Freeview’s two. There’s also more news channels – such as CNBC, CNN, France24, Euronews and Bloomberg. There’s still no Channel 5 in high definition.
The choice of radio stations is more diverse compared to Freeview. Planet Rock, XFM, RTE Radio 1, BFBS and Absolute 80s join the normal line-up of national BBC and commercial radio stations. Red button options for special programmes like BBC One’s F1 Forum are still available on Freesat.
Any satellite dish which has been used for Sky and is still in working order will be fine for Freesat. Some satellite dishes are installed for reception of channels from outside of the UK. A suitably qualified installer will be able to tell you if an existing dish can be re-aligned for Freesat or whether it should be replaced. Most communal satellite systems installed for Sky in lieu of a working TV outlet will also be fine for Freesat.
You can also have a dish installed for Freesat – a simple install should cost less than £100. Many high street retailers that stock Freesat products can recommend an installer to you.
Choosing between Freeview and Freesat
Both Freeview and Freesat offer an attractive alternative to subscription TV packages for multi channel television. Freeview has a smaller list of channels – but if the programmes offered by Dave, Yesterday and 4Music are up your street it could be the better choice. Freesat offers many more music and specialist channels and a better line-up of radio stations, but without some of Freeview’s channels. However, Freesat is an excellent choice if you’re leaving a Sky subscription and already have a dish in place.
Freeview recently announced FreeviewPlay – a brand for their new connected TV service which combines live TV, catch-up and on-demand. Freesat are no slouches either – their Freetime service also has live TV, recording features and on-demand services.