Freetime

Freetime, is Freesat’s second generation (G2) smart TV guide, the service allows you to move ‘earlier’ and ‘later’ through an improved EPG interface, making it easy to instantly watch catch-up TV content via BBC iPlayer and ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5.
Freetime lets you watch all the usual channels available on the Freesat satellite platform adding a new EPG that allows you to go back in time to catch up on programmes that have already been broadcast.

A Freesat <freetime> app for smartphones and tablets is expected in the near future, allowing you to remotely control and set the recording timer.
Freetime is not backward compatible and will not be available on earlier receivers and HDRs.

Website: www.freesat.co.uk/freetime/


 

Freetime EPG

freetime-epg1The <freetime> electronic programme guide (EPG) is completely different to that used on all previous Freesat receivers and HDRs. When you open the TV Guide, the channel you are watching is displayed in a thumbnail window in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

Below this, are ‘now and next’ information on programmes across seven channels. If you push right with the remote control past the now and next information, the EPG populates with a standard bricks-in-the-wall-type layout, showing around 3 hours’ of data.

When you choose a channel that is linked to an on-demand service, such as BBC One (BBC iPlayer), ITV (ITV Hub), or Channel 5 (My5), the EPG switches to showing a list view of the programmes that you can catch up on from earlier in the day.

Press the back button again and it will switch to the day before and if you carry on pressing back you can step through all seven days for which content is available.


 

Video On Demand (VOD)

freetime-vodFreetime currently supports three on-demand services, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and My5.
Freetime lags behind similar services when it comes to search features. Search does not work across the on-demand services at all, only searching the EPG for upcoming shows, a major flaw of freetime and something that needs to be addressed by Freesat.

YouTube and Netflix are also available through <freetime>.
Freetime does support media playback from USB devices and streaming across a network from DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) devices such as computers and NAS drives.

The streaming support is excellent too, with good navigation and almost instant playback once you select a file to play. Format support is also strong, as it played HD MKVs as well as standard-definition Xvid files without any problems.


 

Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)

The Digital Living Network Alliance is a non-profit trade organisation, started by Sony in 2003. The DLNA defines standards that enable devices to share content such as photos, videos and music with each other, and it has more than 200 members responsible for more than 9,000 different DLNA devices.

DLNA is designed to act as a bridge between your various bits of hardware, so you can watch a film from your PC on your TV, play an MP3 from your smartphone on your stereo, or send shots from the family photo album to your wireless printer via your tablet.
DLNA hardware is designed to work on a home network, either with a wired or wireless, although with Wi-Fi you will need to ensure that your network has sufficient bandwidth for what you want to do.


 

Freetime Menu System

freetimeThe Freesat <freetime> menu system is based around the Home tab, which slides in from the left-hand side of the screen when you hit the Home button on the remote. A list that you scroll up and down through to access the various features including the TV guide, on-demand services, your recordings library and the search box.
As you highlight each option, a box at the bottom of the screen populates with the services available under each heading.
The Home tab also gives you access to some additional features, such as Showcase, which is a list of recommendations from Freesat of the best programmes coming up or available via the on-demand services.


 

Issues with Freetime

There are still some areas that need addressing with <freetime>, Demand 5 is not available at present, it would be nice to see more content and services in the on-demand section, including support for pay platforms like Lovefilm, Netflix and Blinkbox.
Search function in the on-demand services needs to be added, hopefully this can be rectified with a <freetime> update in the future.
The EPG looks quite good, though it is quite slow to populate with programming data, making it feel sluggish and slightly unresponsive. This is especially noticeable when you are moving forwards in time through the guide to find a programme that is coming up in a few days that you want to record.

When you select an on-demand show in the EPG, there is quite a long delay as it loads the related on-demand player before you actually get to watch the programme.
<freetime> is designed for a whole new generation of Freesat receivers, no thought seems to have been given to the many thousands of viewers that already own Freesat equipment, it seems unlikely that many will invest in new equipment just to access the few new features available in <freetime>.


 

Freesat G2 Specifications – Freetime

Open standards and technologies form the basis of Freesat’s second generation Freetime receivers, including those from the Open IPTV Forum (OIPF), the Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) project and HTML5 browser technology, with the majority of the Freetime user interface built using the latter.

The Freetime spec also includes features such as: DiSEqC 1.2 support; MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) support including single cable routing; HTML, JavaScript and CSS internet technologies for broadband-delivered interactive services; DRM for online content; and payment mechanisms for broadband services like LoveFilm. James Strickland, Freesat’s director of product and technology development, explained that Freetime is a hybrid between HbbTV and MHEG-5.

Freesat’s next-generation G2 spec include DiSEqC, single cable routing and core support for iPlayer-style hybrid TV services.
MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) support, which potentially enables a whole host of advanced media streaming and multiroom features that manufacturers might use.
Single cable routing as part of the MoCA standard (Multimedia over Coax Alliance). SCR lets a PVR take multiple tuner feeds through a single cable, but so far there have been several competing methods.

DiSEqC switching, as part of SCR. Only switching,however, there’s no DiSEqC 1.2 for motorised sat.
HTML, Javascript and CSS: internet technologies that should make it a lot easier to add broadband-delivered interactive services.
DRM for non-subscription channels who want some sort of encryption, via broadband or broadcast.

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