Best free satellite TV

Choosing the type of TV you wanted to buy used to be simple. Did you opt for a free-to-air service such as Freeview, or should you shell out for a paid service such as Sky or Virgin Media?

But now the landscape of TV programming options has changed drastically. You could be a “cord-cutter” and opt not to watch anything live via your aerial or TV subscription, using your TV to stream Netflix or Amazon Prime Video instead. And if you still really want to watch live TV, your options for free-to-air TV have now multiplied and evolved.

The three major services on the market right now are Freeview Play, YouView and Freesat. While all are relatively similar on the surface – offering up a slew of free-to-air TV channels alongside catch-up services, TV recording and EPG (electronic programme guide) information – the truth is there are many crucial differences between them.

Freeview Play vs Freesat vs YouView: Available services

When HD wasn’t the norm, picking a free-to-air service was a bit of a headache. Now, though, all three services offer HD compatibility and channels, along with catch-up and on-demand services. All three also provide “+” services that allow you to record, pause and rewind live TV. This functionality is built in to Freeview Play as standard, but if you want a standard Freeview HD box, you’ll need to opt for the Freeview HD Record to save live TV.

Freeview YouView Freesat
Channels 60+ 70+ 200+
HD channels 15 13
Recording Freeview Play / HD Recorder YouView+ Freesat+
Catch-up Yes
Transmission Aerial/internet Satellite/internet

To watch free-to-air TV via any of these services, you need a television licence and either a digital-ready aerial or a satellite dish installed at your home. If you have access to a satellite dish – including an old Sky dish – Freesat is worth considering, especially if you live in an area with poor digital transmission signal.

HD tuners are now included as standard on all of these three set-top boxes or TVs with a built-in service – so you no longer have to worry about finding a HD-ready box. TVs that come with built-in recorders, however, still aren’t the standard. Any Freeview Play box or enabled TV is capable of recording as standard, as are YouView-equipped Sony TVs. If you’re looking to add a box to your existing TV and would like to be able to record, you’ll need to pick up either a Freeview HD Recorder, Freeview Play, YouView+ or Freesat+ box.

Freeview Play vs Freesat vs YouView: Catch-up TV

Freeview Play
Free services BBC iPlayer


All 4

Demand 5


STV Player

BBC iPlayer




BBC iPlayer
Paid-for services N/A Netflix

Now TV

Sky Store




Alongside standard and HD TV, Freeview Play, YouView and Freesat all offer up an opportunity to catch up on missed TV via services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5. Freeview Play now includes UKTV Play, and YouView has a slew of other catch-up services currently unavailable on either Freeview Play or Freesat.

These catch-up services are all free to use, but YouView also offers premium subscription services such as Netflix, Now TV and Sky Store, along with BT and TalkTalk-exclusive content too. Netflix is only available on Sony devices with YouView, just like you can only access BT or TalkTalk channels with a BT Home or TalkTalk Broadband package.

Freeview Play vs Freesat vs YouView: Which one should I buy?

Now you know what each service is capable of, you have to answer the tricky question of which one is right for you.

If you’re looking to pick up a set-top box, YouView currently offers the best all-round service. Not only do you get access to all the features of Freeview Play, but there are more catch-up services, more channels and the option to expand it into premium on-demand services. YouView boxes are cheaper than Freeview Play devices, and there’s no need to pay for the installation of a satellite dish as you would for Freesat.

However, if you’re looking to buy a new TV, you’re better off picking one equipped with Freeview Play. Just as Freeview became the de facto free-to-air digital service, Freeview Play will become the standard for TVs in future as it begins to partner up with more TV manufacturers.

Freeview Play vs Freesat vs YouView: Where to buy

If you’re looking to buy a Freeview Play, Freesat or YouView device, you can snap one up on Amazon, John Lewis or Currys. However, you’ll have to decide which device you want to buy.

Many TVs come with Freeview HD tuners built in as standard, with some also offering up Freesat HD tuners. YouView is only present in a handful of Sony Bravia TVs, and Freeview Play can currently only be found in some Panasonic TVs, with LG and others planned for the future.

Freeview Play tuners are also available to buy separately or as part of a Blu-ray player. Picking up a Freeview Play box can cost you around £200 or more, depending what you go for. The Freeview Play boxes currently available are a little too expensive to be seen as worthwhile, generally running a little too sluggishly compared to the likes of YouView. It may be worth waiting for Vestel’s branded units to arrive at a lower price instead.

Unlike Freesat and Freeview Play, you can get a YouView box via a BT or TalkTalk internet package. Doing so grants you access to extra channels you otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain, such as BT Sport.

See also:

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