Freeview is the terrestrial digital TV transmissions broadcast in the UK. It can provide over 30 TV channels and 20 radio stations through your existing TV aerial.
The first digital TV transmissions in the UK were broadcast by a commercial company called OnDigital. These required an upfront payment to buy a receiver box, then a monthly subscription to receive the service. OnDigital receivers were based on a closed platform (MediaHighway), and a limited number of manufacturers produced them. They all had to run the same MediaHighway middleware. The OnDigital service struggled on for a few years, gaining market penetration, but eventually failed.
Following the demise of OnDigital, the BBC spearheaded the Freeview initiative, which was launched in 2002. The idea was that the platform would be opened up, providing the opportunity for more equipment manufacturers to enter the market. This would increase competition, and drive down the cost of the boxes. Also since no subscription was required, the cost to the consumer became a single on-off payment to purchase their receiver.
Today with freeview receivers as low as £20, and broadcast coverage of over 70% of all UK homes, there are over 9 million freeview equipped homes. Many of these no longer use analogue TV services at all, prefering to use the digital equivents.
There are a plethora of different Freeview receivers available now, from simple set top boxes, hard disk recorders, DVD recorders, Freeview capture cards for PCs and TVs with integrated Freeview tuners. There are innovative products to, such as a receiver in a SCART dongle, about the size of a matchbox.