Yesterday I attended the “Outside the Box” event hosted by Everyone TV, which provided valuable insights into the UK media market with a bonus. The event included industry discussions and marked the first public showcase of the new Freely TV service, designed for next-generation TVs. Freely TV represents a significant step forward, offering linear TV through IP streaming backed by the UK’s main public service broadcasters (PSBs). This move aligns with global trends seen in the launches of IP-based TV platforms by major providers such as Deutsche Telekom, KPN, Sky, and Liberty Global amongst others. It signifies a shift towards replacing traditional free over-the-air TV with internet-based free streaming of linear services and on demand content.
However, the user interface (UI) of Freely TV, although functional and reliable, looks fairly pedestrian. It relies on familiar features like a 7-day electronic program guide (EPG), channel zapping with information, and a content discovery screen that offers a mix of linear and on-demand content from PSBs. The UI’s conservative design clearly promotes content from PSBs, raising concerns about the visibility and accessibility of content from other popular providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Pluto TV, and Disney. Literally the designs shown this morning guaranteed no other content providers would be visible ‘above the line’, or worse that they will not be present at all. This could potentially be problematic, as it will limit the range of content that consumers expect to be available right from the start within this experience.
In a media landscape increasingly focused on personalisation and content discovery across various streaming services, the initial design of Freely TV’s UI seems to overlook these consumer demands. While the current demonstration might not fully represent the final product, it raises concerns about the future of TV viewing experiences, potentially leading to a continuance of the “Game of Silos” where apps and platforms compete to keep viewers within their ecosystem – something I believe Freely would only lose. Ideally, the future of TV should prioritise consumer-led experiences, allowing for customisation and easy access to a wide range of content, ensuring viewers can watch what they want, regardless of the service it comes from. That does not mean a lack of prominence, only that assured prominence should only be the default starting point for a fully consumer centric content discovery experience.
I hope I am wrong.
Ian Nock is the Founder of Fairmile West, which is a Consulting company focused on working in the Consumer Device and Video arena. We work with clients on technology strategy and product delivery through key practices in Consumer Devices and Video Services. If you are interested in learning more about what we do, please do get in touch via our website – Contact us. You can also keep track with what interests us in the industry by following our Link blog at TV Tech News, and you can specifically follow news on Ultra HD via the following link – Ultra HD News