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How Does Freesat TV Work?

Written by, Adavelli Muninder

Updated December, 2, 2022

Freesat is a great alternative to expensive cable and satellite TV packages. 

But, how does Freesat TV work, where is it available and what exactly does it have to offer? 

Let’s find out.

What is Freesat?

Freesat is a subscription-free satellite TV service available across the UK. 

Launched in 2008 as a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, Freesat provides high-quality linear and on-demand content to more than two million households across the UK. 

Currently, Freesat offers 170 digital TV and radio channels as well as on-demand content from streaming services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and My5.

How does Freesat TV work

Freesat TV works just like any other satellite television service, i.e. it receives signals from satellites and then converts them into a TV format. This means that it can offer a more reliable signal than aerial TV, the quality of which depends significantly on the weather (if you have an outdoor aerial) and your location. 

Since it is free of charge, there is no need for contracts or monthly subscription renewals, but you will need a satellite dish and a Freesat box for your TV to get the service. 

What channels are on Freesat?

Freesat has more than 170 channels, including over 20 HD channels, such as 

  • BBC One HD
  • BBC Two HD 
  • BBC News HD 
  • ITV HD 
  • Channel 5 HD
  • QVC HD
  • DAYSTAR HD and more.

The number of Freesat HD channels may not be as high as Sky Signature (which boasts more than 39 HD channels), but unlike Sky, Freesat doesn’t require a costly subscription. 

In addition, Freesat TV offers a wide choice of free and premium streaming apps and on-demand content, such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, BritBox,  ITV Hub and YouTube. 

How to Get Freesat?

Freesat TV may be free to use, but it requires an initial investment. Namely, you will need to buy a satellite dish (if you don’t have one) and get it installed. You will also need to purchase a Freesat TV box.

Here are more details. 

Satellite dish

If you already have a satellite dish installed, you might be able to use it to watch Freesat TV.  Freesat TV boxes, both old and new, are compatible with almost all UK satellite dishes, so even former SkyQ or Sky+ customers can easily repurpose their old dishes. 

If you do not have a Freesat satellite dish, you will need to buy a new one—most retailers sell them and many offer installation as well. If they do not, you can find a local installer here or use your own to complete the Freesat installation procedure. 

Freesat TV box

Some TVs (some LG models and most Android TVs) have built-in satellite tuners and can receive Freesat (and sometimes Freesat HD) channels without a separate set-top box. If your device has Freesat-enabled, you can connect your satellite cable directly to your TV and start watching your favourite programmes. 

For those that do not have Freesat built-in, the company offers two types of boxes:  

  • 4K TV boxes allow users to stream and watch on-demand content, as well as restart Live TV (although this feature is available for certain BBC channels only). A non-recordable Freesat box is currently sold for £145.
  • Recordable 4K TV boxes come with the same features, plus they allow you to rewind and pause Live TV, as well as record 4 shows at the same time. These are a bit more expensive, ranging between £229.99 and £299.99 (depending on available storage). You can choose between
    • 500 GB: record 250 hours of Standard Definition TV
    • 1TB: record 500 hours of SD TV 
    • 2TB: record 1000 hours of SD TV

What else do I need for Freesat?

If you want to watch on-demand players and streaming services on your Freesat box, you will need a working internet connection.  You should also have an available HDMI port to connect the box to the TV set.

Freesat Alternatives 

Freesat vs Freeview 

Freesat and Freeview (both owned and managed by Digital UK since 2021) offer similar programming. However, there is a slight difference in the number of channels available. While Freesat has over 170+ channels, Freeview has 70+, 15 of which are in HD. What’s more, Freesat provides better reception in some rural areas than Freeview since it broadcasts satellite signals.

However, Freeview is completely free and there is no need to buy and install a satellite dish—in fact, all you need to watch Freeview is an aerial and a TV (and in some cases, you can get Freeview without an aerial too)

Freesat vs Sky

Freesat is regarded as one of the best Sky TV alternatives in the UK since it offers most of the same channels but without the costly subscription. That said, Sky still has the biggest selection of programmes in the country and now with Sky Glass, the company’s new TV set, you won’t even need a satellite or aerial to watch telly, which might make the monthly £13 payment more than worth it. 

Bottom Line: Is Freesat Right for You?

Freesat is definitely an option to consider if you are looking for affordable ways to watch TV. It may require a bigger initial investment than Freeview, but it provides a more reliable signal and boasts 100% UK coverage. What’s more, thanks to its wide selection of channels and on-demand content, it is comparable to some of the biggest TV and broadband providers in the country, including Virgin Media and Sky.

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

Do you need a satellite dish for Freesat?

Yes, you will need to install a satellite dish and a Freesat receiver to get Freesat TV. If you have a satellite dish you can connect it to your Freesat receiver since most dishes are compatible with Freesat’s boxes.

Do you need internet for Freesat?

Yes, if you want to watch some on-demand and streaming content, like Netflix, YouTube or Prime Video, you will need to have an internet connection. 

Does a TV with built-in Freesat need an aerial?

No, you can use your smart TV without an aerial or without a Freesat box if you have Freesat built-in. You will still need a satellite dish though. 

Which HD channels are available on Freesat?

With Freesat HD users get access to 20 HD channels, including BBC One HD, BBC Two HD, BBC News HD, ITV HD, and Channel 5 HD. 

How much Is Freesat?

Freesat has no monthly subscriptions. That said, you will need a satellite dish and a Freesat TV box to get the service. You may also need a monthly subscription to watch some streaming services, such as Netflix and Prime Video.