Freeview is the easiest way for many of us to watch television in the UK. If you’re old like me, then you’ll remember when it was introduced almost two decades ago now. Whilst it wasn’t that warmly received at first – mainly due to people not wanting change – it was pretty easy to see the benefits of having a Freeview box.
A few years later down the line, an alternative to Freeview was offered in Freesat, which has often been said to be a better option than Freeview. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of talk about Freesat online too, with more people wondering if it’d be a better choice for them.
But is Freesat better than Freeview, or is there no difference between them? Both of these services are free to air, and they’re both available in set top boxes too. Let’s look at how they’re more alike than they are different.
Freeview vs Freesat
Essentially, the main difference between these two forms of digital TV is that Freeview is accessed through an aerial, whilst Freesat can be accessed with just a satellite dish. Freesat also has more channels than Freeview too.
When you’re trying to work out which is the best TV service for your needs, then the most important thing you need to check first is what your area is like for reception. The location of your closest TV transmitter is useful to know, as this may dictate whether you opt for Freeview or go for Freesat instead.
Freesat HD set top boxes are actually becoming more popular in recent years, especially amongst those that want to watch 4k content. But does that make Freesat the better option? Well, we’re going to look at both of them in a bit more depth to find out which would be a better choice.
Freeview is the original option of the two, and it’s what most of us in the UK consider to be the standard option. For the last decade or so, all new televisions actually have Freeview built into them, so you can access these channels using a Freeview tuner (check out our television guide here).
And even before this, Freeview has been the better option of the two in terms of costs, as their Freeview box tends to be a little cheaper than a Freesat box. However, the costs between Freesat and Freeview boxes is pretty minimal in comparison to other methods.
Freeview is also known as digital terrestrial television, or DTT for short. It is very common worldwide, with different countries having their own equivalent of the UK’s Freeview channels. But like in the US, the choice for streaming and watching television is more than ever.
And nowadays, many people aren’t sure of which one of these two to opt for. The main reason for this is likely down to the amount of users that are living in apartments where we may not have an aerial, or even on new build estates, where they’re not installing aerials as standard in many cases.
So, whilst you probably could get an aerial installed – they cover most of the country – it’s not always the best option. Plus, some of us can’t get Freeview at all!
What Channels Are on Freeview?
The most common question people have about Freeview is the number of channels that it offers. Altogether, Freeview offers 70+ channels for you to choose from. This includes;
This excludes catch up +1 channels, radio + most shopping channels.
The good news is that if you have Freeview HD equipment, then there will be now extra charge to watch some of these channels in a higher resolution. This includes BBC channels and a few more that can also be watched on a HD TV.
So, what is Freeview Play?
Many people get confused about Freeview Play, what it is and how it’s different from just Freeview. The truth is that Freeview Play is Freeview – with a little more.
Essentially, Freeview Play is the term used for the channels listed above, which is the standard Freeview viewing. But as well as this, it also includes the catch up TV that most of us want to see, including BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, which are the most popular.
As well as this, it also includes the ability to use streaming services, like Amazon Prime or NOW TV. Obviously, these aren’t free; you’ll need to sign up for them individually on their own, but you can watch them through Freeview Play.
So, if you see Freeview Play on a box or a television advertised as much, just remember it has the ability to watch live TV, catch up services and stream new shows on demand via the internet.
Now let’s take a look at Freesat. Essentially, much of Freesat is the same as with Freeview. However, instead of using an aerial to receive your television, you’ll use a satellite.
This can be quite handy if you already have a satellite dish installed and you don’t have an aerial at home. It’s also better for people that don’t get good reception with their aerial in their home too.
Freesat was launched as a joint venture between the BBC and ITV – much like streaming service Britbox – and it’s mainly trying to tackle the lack of aerial signal that some customers were getting. It’s been pretty well received by the public, with millions of Freesat users across the UK.
What Channels are on Freesat?
The most common reason people say that Freesat is better than Freeview is that it has more channels. Freesat does offer 180+ different channels for you to choose from, but remember this includes HD versions of the same channel and radio stations too.
The main difference in channels between the two really boils down to News and Radio. For the most part, they are the same, but Freesat also has news channels like Bloomberg and CNN. Plus, it also has additional Radio channels like Virgin Radio and Absolute 80’s Radio.
Can Freesat Record?
Something else that you might want to think about if you’re looking at a Freesat box is if you want the ability to record. The budget Freesat boxes out there won’t have this ability, so you need to ensure that you get a recorder if you want to do this.
This is actually the same for Freeview too. Often, the base cheaper models won’t have the ability to record, so make sure you get one that can if you want this functionality. This will allow you to record one channel whilst you’re watching another simultaneously.
How They’re Similar
Whilst people often deliberate which of the two they should choose, these two forms of digital television are actually pretty similar to each other. For many people, they won’t notice the difference between the two. Here are a few of the ways that both of these two are the same.
Reasons to Choose Freesat Over Freeview
Because they’re so similar to one another, it can be really difficult to which one you should go with. Whilst they’re both fine TV services, there are a couple of reasons why you might want to look at Freesat as the better option of the two.
Bad Aerial Reception
Now, the main issue that some people have with Freeview is that it doesn’t cover their area very well, and they can’t get a great signal. This is the main reason to opt for Freesat over Freeview.
Freesat manages to cover pretty much all of the UK, whereas Freeview only covers most of it. It still services 95%+ of the United Kingdom well, but for that 5% that can’t get a good aerial reception, then Freesat is going to be the better option of the two.
Of course, this requires that you receive your television via satellite. Much of the time, it’s best to go with whatever you already have installed at your house (aerial or satellite).
As you can probably see above, you’re going to get more channels with Freesat than you can with just Freeview. This is a reason to opt for Freesat over Freeview, but to be honest, many of the channels are actually duplicates in a HD version, and there’s a lot of radio stations in there too.
There are a couple of HD channels that you can only get on Freeview and not via Freesat. This is basically just QVC (the shopping channel), so you’re not really missing out on much in that sense.
So if you’re a heavy radio listener, then maybe Freesat might have better variety for you to choose from. As you’d expect, Freesat has more BBC channels for you to choose from as well.
Alternatives to both Freeview and Freesat
Both of these TV methods are reliant on either an aerial or a satellite. But what if you don’t have either, and don’t want to pay the installation fees for either of these receivers either?
Well, there are actually a few other options that you can choose. It really depends on how extensive you want your TV guide to be, and whether you can deal with not having live TV.
One alternative method to both of these options is to go for cable TV. The best example of this in the UK is Virgin Media. With Virgin, you don’t need to have an aerial or a satellite dish to watch your favourite shows.
The good thing about cable is that it combines all of the things that you need into just one cable – your television, your internet and your home landline. Another positive about opting for cable is that you’re far less disposed to bad signal via weather conditions, which can be an issue with an aerial.
The bad thing about cable is that typically the price that’s attached to it can be pretty expensive. Although you can find cheap initial deals, they’ll often end up being £50 or more per month. For some people, this is just too much – and this is where Freeview and Freesat might be the better choice.
If you want to get rid of your aerials, dishes and cables altogether – commonly referred to as cordcutting – then you could look to go completely online.
Nowadays, most of us are watching TV series and films via the internet anyway, so it’s not as crazy as it once seemed to get rid of your television. If you’re a sports fan or soap opera addict, then it’s not going to be a valid option.
But for many people, one of the reasons for getting rid of the cables is to also get rid of your TV licence. You can actually save quite a bit of money doing this, but you do need to sacrifice some must watch TV that you can’t get on demand. Remember that if you want to watch any live TV channels, you’ll need to have a TV licence too.
In conclusion, there’s actually very little difference between these two different ways of watching television. Whilst Freeview is the older and more commonly used option, that’s really only because it’s been around longer, and most of us already have TV aerials in our homes.
Freesat provides a similar experience, with a few more channels included too. It’s the overall better choice if you’re looking to watch TV and radio channels are important to you too.
15 thoughts on “Freeview vs Freesat | Channels, Reception & More Compared”
Very helpful and unbiased advice, all I needed to know in helping me choose which system best suits me.
Thanks Paul! Any questions about Freeview, Freesat or anything else for that matter, just ask.
Thanks for this Jon, we recently got rid of Sky tv because of the expense. Now we just watch freeview. However I must say the lack of the Hd Offering Is disappointing. You’d think Hd would be pretty standard these days.
Really interesting and easily understood. Thank you.
Glad I could help and thanks for the kind words, Melanie!
Great detail and well explained. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
Thanks Bob! Happy to help.
Thanks for your advice , I’m old school and not a fan of technology so your article helped me update my knowledge
No problem Tina! That’s what we are here for! 🙂
Thank you so much for that explanation! It has helped me make the decision on what to do next now I’ve binned Sky.
Glad we could help, Alison! 😀
Thanks for making it all a bit clearer as keeping up with all the changes with TVs and how to get your programming it’s difficult to choose and not lose what you want from your TV.
Good uncomplicated explanation.
Thanks again Ron
Very welcome Ron!
Interesting & informative piece, thanks. I am still bewildered though! Recently moved back to uk from Australia, with my tvs. There’s an aerial on the roof but reception not great here. To get my Aussie tvs to work, would it make sense to get a free sat installation?
Thanks, Maggie! For your situation, I’m thinking a freesat install is probably your best bet. Unless you can have your building rewire/rework the aerial setup… (unlikely, I know).