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You're wasting your money on Sky and Virgin, Freeview says

We talked to Freeview about YouView, 4G breaking your telly, and why you're paying too much for Sky and Virgin Media.

You're wasting your money paying for telly -- because the best shows are free. That's according to Freeview, the free TV service, which I caught up with to talk about YouView, 4G breaking your telly, and why you're paying £200 a year too much for Sky and Virgin Media.

As technology fans, we're usually concerned with the early adopters, the cutting edge, the latest thing. HD, 3D and 4K; smart TVs, online streaming and second-screen iPad apps. But Freeview isn't interested in all that: Freeview is for the majority of viewers who just plain old-fashioned watch telly.

Freeview suggests linear TV -- watching a show when it's on -- is enormously resilient, even in our age of catch-up this and streaming t'other. In fact, Freeview reckons only 1 per cent of the Olympics was watched online.

Freeview also reckons the humble aerial will survive into the next decade -- and perhaps even into the 2030s too.


In fact, the free TV service is so happy that aerials are sticking around, it's not bothered by YouView, the next generation of free telly that pipes live shows and catch-up into your TV via the Web. YouView boxes are given away with broadband contracts by Internet service providers, a relationship that seems more future-proof than relying on aerials to always be around. 

Mass audience

19.3m homes have the necessary kit to watch Freeview -- a TV with a Freeview tuner and an aerial -- of which 10.6m use Freeview for their main telly watching.

Showing how Freeview isn't necessarily for the early adopters or those who splash the cash on their AV setup, just 3 million people are equipped to watch the current Freeview HD lineup. As BBC2 takes the number of free HD channels to four, there are plans for another six next year.

You're wasting your money

Freeview reckons Sky, Virgin Media and the rest are a waste of cash for most people. 95 per cent of the UK's most-watched programmes are on channels you can see on Freeview. That's from a list of the top 1,000 shows from the first half of last year -- not counting one-offs like the Jubilee -- including Fresh MeatMasterchef and Big Brother.

That's an eye-opening figure, although it's a bit circular: the most widely available shows are the most widely viewed, perhaps because they're the most widely available.

Freeview has done research into the habits of pay TV customers, and found that only 25 per cent of the telly watched by average customers (not including subscribers to Sky Sports or Sky Movies) is on paid channels. In fact, Freeview has mathematised the amount spent on pay TV compared to the amount of time spend watching channels to figure out we're wasting £200 a year on channels we're not watching.

Of course, the question is whether that small percentage of shows only available from pay TV -- like Game of Thrones and Mad Men, not to mention movies and sports -- are worth enough to you to pay for the whole shebang. 

4G filter-fitters

When super-fast LTE data for mobile phones arrives this year, those 4G signals will interfere with some Freeview TVs. Freeview's reaction boils down to 'not our problem'. It will keep a close eye on the DMSL, the industry body that will provide 4G filters to affected households to fix the problem, but has no plans to get involved or to tell viewers about the issue. 

Is Freeview being short-sighted by not embracing the Internet, or is the humble aerial here to stay? Are Sky and Virgin Media worth the money, or is Freeview better value? And how do you watch telly these days? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.