To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Ditch your set top box? Panasonic brings Freetime to TVs

Panasonic Freetime TV

Is this the beginning of the end for set top boxes?

Today, at the British Olympic Association in London, Panasonic announced that it will be integrating the Freetime TV service into its 2014 TVs in the UK. For those unfamiliar with the service, Freetime is much like Youview in that it integrates catch-up TV into an easily navigable timeline interface.

Up until now Freetime has only appeared on satellite-based set top boxes, such as the Humax HDR-1000S, but this is the first time the service has been built into a TV and the first time it will be usable via both aerial and satellite tuners.

This means a significant upgrade to the built-in interface for Panasonic TVs, but also the first time we’ve seen such a service integrated directly into a TV – major competition for set-top box makers and providers such as Sky, BT and Humax. You get up to seven days of catch-up TV across 26 channels including all the major players – BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and 5 on Demand.

Panasonic Freetime TV

Adding Freetime to TVs is a big step forward for Smart TV interfaces

Freetime will only be available on selected models, but Panasonic said that it would cover around 90% of its range. At launch you won’t be able to record TV from the Freetime interface to a hard disk connected to the TV via USB, though Panasonic told us this was something they were looking to implement later. It also doesn’t work at present with the Freesat app, though that’s understandable given the lack of recording at present.

It’s possible that the interface will be rolled out to current models in the future, so last year’s TVs may well receive an update to Freetime in due course, though Panasonic wouldn’t confirm for certain that this will happen or when.

The TV on show was the TX-50AX802B, a 4K model with an impressive-looking design and specifications. Unfortunately Freetime wasn’t yet ready-to-run on the TV for a live demo. You can opt to make the Freetime interface your default home screen, so that you arrive there whenever you turn on the TV.

It’s an exciting step forward for smart TVs as set-top boxes have had all the best interfaces for catch-up TV to date. Add in the ability to record to a USB hard disk and you could finally have a TV that really doesn’t need another box sat beneath for free-to-air content.

Read more