With Freeview passing the 100 million device milestone, this is the perfect opportunity to see how Freeview has changed over the last 13 years. Products have come, gone, and transformed the way we watch TV. So hold on tight, you’re about to be hit by a wave of nostalgia.
It’s strange to think Nokia once made set-top boxes. The slightly inelegant Mediamaster Free-to-View gave you access to some 25 Digital Terrestrial channels and, best of all, you could use Teletext. On a Saturday afternoon, you might’ve been frantically pressing 302 and 316 on your remote for the latest football scores to appear on your 4:3 cathode ray tube (CRT) TV. Ah, the memories – Pop Idol on Saturday night, Heartbeat on Sunday – all hindered by a small squarish picture.
Fast forward two years, underdogs Greece were winning UEFA Euro 2004 and BBC aired Pat and Mo, an EastEndersspin-off featuring Pat Butcher and Mo Harris in the 1950s. Good times. Carrying on the retro feel, you probably watched it all on a 16:9 CRT TV – you remember, those huge deep grey boxes. Despite the looks, the popularity of these TVs signified the rise of the household widescreen.
Finally, unshackled from the TV schedule. Freeview Playback, later renamed Freeview Recorder, is launched. Now you could pause, record and rewind live TV – so you could make a cuppa and still catch the West Wing’s nail-biting finale. Early flatscreen TVs were beginning to appear on the market complete with bulky bezels. But you still needed a set-top box to watch Freeview.
Most TVs now featured Freeview built in, all you had to do was buy a new flatscreen TV – you could even get one for your bathroom. You could also watch Freeview on your laptop by connecting a USB tuner courtesy of AVerMedia. Soon, Freeview would be in every TV sold in the UK.
Freeview HD was launched with coverage reaching 50% households – just in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Channel 4 HD, ITV1 HD and the BBC HD channel were all available on Freeview HD – which now seems rather sparse in comparison to the 12 HD channels available today. And technology was now becoming slicker with less clutter. The big four – Panasonic, LG, Sony and Samsung – were now releasing TVs with built-in Freeview HD.
And here we are, present day. Freeview Play is on the horizon and soon Freeview will take its viewers from digital to a connected TV world – you’ll be able to watch catch-up TV straight from your onscreen TV guide…and in some style too. Check out the Panasonic LED TV VIERA TX-65CR852B, a curved 4K TV with built-in Freeview Play. Watching Freeview will never have been so immersive.