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Sound and Vision: Netflix’s loss is Freeview’s gain

OPINION: Last week’s Sound & Vision was about the rise of Prime Video against its old foe in Netflix, this week’s column follows the same theme, but with a starring role for Freeview Play.

This week Freeview Play announced a new feature in the Explore Freeview Play TV, which brings recommendations and a dedicated box set area to help find content that much easier.

Why is this of significance? Well, it’s not so much the feature itself that’s the topic but a roundabout way of discussing what Freeview currently represents. An enticing alternative to paid subscription services, which a humongous amount of content.

Now we could get into an ideological argument over whether the likes of iPlayer and All 4 are ‘technically’ free in light of how they’re funded, but regardless they are a lower cost alternative considering the wealth of content. It’s been reported that younger people have been cutting back on streaming services this year, with research from Kantar finding that 1.66m have been ended, with the under-24 age group the most likely to quit.

The cost-of-living crisis finds us all seeking for ways to spend money without overstretching, which has led to even streaming services being considered a luxury. Those who appear to be winning out are the ‘free’ streaming services, the likes of iPlayer, All 4 and the social media service TikTok attracting viewers instead.

Explore Freeview Play Home interface

And the added attention is likely making people aware of the quality that’s on UK catch-up/on-demand services, which isn’t exactly a hidden secret. All 4 has a really good, diverse library with some great animated shows – Cowboy Bebop, The Venture Bros., Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law – while they had the first two seasons of the Harley Quinn show. iPlayer’s 4K library is nowhere near as much as you’ll find on Prime Video, Apple TV+ or Netflix, but it has grown this year and it has some cracking, topically relevant series and old Hollywood classics to enjoy.

I think we can all grumble about ITV Hub’s interface and general quality, but I watched Our House on a whim and actually found it to be pretty entertaining in that late night, schlocky mystery TV series mood where the quality is not the greatest, but it is pretty entertaining. And then there’s programming where I dare not to tread with the likes of Love Island and Naked Attraction.

Suffice to say there’s plenty to watch on these services with over 40000 hours of content available. It’s not as if Freeview Play wasn’t already successful beforehand but with a younger audience seemingly tuning into these services more, where the likes of Netflix are losing ground, iPlayer and All 4 seem to be on the rise. And with privatisation fears still swirling around BBC and Channel 4, that can only be a good thing.

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