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Forces TV: not for everyone with Freeview

UPDATE | Ahead of its official Freeview launch date, Forces TV has taken up its slot on Freeview channel 96. But the channel won't be available to everyone.

A placeholder for Forces TV is now being broadcast on channel 96. It's launch has been brought forward to 28th September. The channel will feature cult US series including Knight Rider alongside military documentaries and Forces News.

But while the arrival on Freeview was heavily promoted by the channel in a recent announcement, the channel's placeholder has put it in a slot that only around 75% of the UK can receive. Of that 75%, only those with newer Freeview devices (i.e. those that support Freeview HD or Freeview Play) will be able to decode the signal.

However, for broadcasters, inclusion on a lower coverage multiplex reduces the cost of broadcasting on Freeview, which can cost several million a year, and has proved to be a barrier stopping smaller broadcasters from launching a service on Freeview.

Forces TV will continue to reach viewers free-to-air via satellite (Sky and Freesat) and via Virgin Media following its launch on Freeview via its new playout centre.

Viewers with a YouView-based TV service (e.g BT TV or TalkTalk TV) will be able to see the Forces TV placeholder on channel 96 if they live within the 75% Freeview coverage, through the YouView receiver's in-built Freeview receiver. YouView boxes will automatically add the channel without user intervention, if in range of the signal.

Why can't everyone receive the full Freeview line-up?
Freeview channels are broadcast via a number of multiplexes from transmitters across the UK. While the multiplexes carrying the main public service channels reach 98.5% of the UK via a network of over 1,000 transmitters (most of them relays), most commercial channels are broadcast to 90% of the UK via 80 main transmitters. But Forces TV has a slot on a multiplex broadcast from 30 transmitters, reaching around 75% of the UK. Within the 75%, only newer Freeview devices can decode the signal, as it operates using the newer DVB-T2 standard that Freeview HD and Freeview Play devices are compatible with. Local TV services have an even lower reach across the UK, although all Freeview receivers within range can receive the services.

In a nutshell, if you can receive FreeSports on channel 95 - which broadcasts on the same multiplex - then you'll receive Forces TV on channel 96.

A frequency reorganisation demanded by Ofcom to free up more spectrum for mobile networks from the 2020s means that in the long-term, more channels will require a newer Freeview device to receive them.