This is article about FreesatFromSky and Freeview.
There are a few differences between Freesat and Freeview, including the availability of the service, the TV & Radio channel lineups, the required equipment, and finally costs. All of these factors will have an impact on which system is the best for you.
The main difference between the two is that Freeview is terrestrial digital TV, whereas Freesat is satellite digital TV.
With terrestrial digital TV, the signal comes from broadcasting antennas positioned at strategic geographic locations. The advantage of this system is that you can pick up the signal from anywhere, even inside the house (although limited) as long as you are within a good signal range. The disadvantage is that the signal varies significantly across the country, even to the point where it becomes insufficient or not present at all. Currently, Freeview covers 73% of the population.
With satellite TV, the signal is sent from a satellite in space. The advantage of such transmission is that it can cover a large area – as big as a country or even a continent – with just one beam. The disadvantage is that there must be a clear line-of-sight between the satellite and the satellite dish, and that the satellite dish must be pointing exactly at the satellite. Freesat covers 98% of the population.
So, what does this mean in practice?
You cannot get Freeview if your area is not covered by the signal. You can check this easily with your postcode at http://www.freeview.co.uk/.
You cannot get Freesat if you are unable to mount a satellite dish, or if the direction in which you point your sateliite (south-east) does not have a clear line-of sight. Any trees, big buildings etc. which are in the way will hinder satellite TV reception. If you are living in a flat and don't have access to the south-east or permission from your landlord to install a satellite dish, the Freesat option will also not be available to you. The exact location for where to point your dish can be calculated with the online-calculator on this site.
If you want to be flexible about where to watch TV, Freeview is the better option as you would only need to take a receiver and a small antenna with you. That way you can watch telly at work, at your mate's house or even on your laptop. With satellite-based Freesat, it's not that easy as you would need to take the dish (large and heavy) with you and then mount it properly (right direction, stable, fixed to something).
TV & Radio Channel Lineups
Although Freesat offers more channels than Freeview, the main channels are available on both systems. The key difference is that on Freeview the following channels are available for free, but not on Freesat:
Sky Sports News
More 4 +1
You can also get Top Up TV on Freeview for a monthly charge and add a few more channels to the line up. On the other hand, Freesat has a lot more shopping and special interest channels as well as more radio channels.
Note that on Freesat, C4, Five, Five Life, Five US and SKY3 are encrypted and require a FTV card, but more on this later.
Equipment and Costs
Freeview: All you need is a digital terrestrial set-top box (also called Freeview box or receiver), available from high street stores or online at Amazon, Currys, eBay etc., and an aerial. A very good price comparison with user reviews of the boxes can be found here. Your existing rooftop aerial should be fine, unless it's very old. You can also get an indoor aerial but reception might be limited and is therefore not recommended as a permanent solution. You can also get a Freeview PVR receiver to record and pause programmes (similar to Sky+ but without the additional charges).
Freesat: You'll need a satellite dish with an LNB and a satellite receiver to watch all channels except C4, Five, Five Life, Five US and Sky3. If you want these channels as well, you will need an additional FTV card, and the satellite receiver must be a Sky digibox (though there is an exception for the tech-savvies). The FTV card can be obtained from www.freesatfromsky.com for £20. They also offer a complete package with dish, LNB, Sky Digibox and standard installation for £150. If you don't already have many of these items and are also not keen on getting them second-hand and doing a DIY installation, it's well worth getting the whole package. Having said that, it might be better to get a basic 12 month Sky subscription with free installation for about £180 or even less with a special offer (e.g. £5 off when you buy online) . The benefit would be additional channels from the Sky Entertainment Mixes and the option to order pay-per-view movies and sport events from Sky Box Office (this is not possible with just Freesat). You must not forget to cancel your subscription ahead of time within the year. Once the subscription has ended, the Sky card will automatically be converted into a Freesat FTV card.
Again, what does this mean in practise?
Freeview is the cheaper option. It also allows for more flexibility. For example, if you want to watch different channels simultanously in different rooms, you only need an additional receiver. With freesat, you would need a multi-LNB such as Twin, or Quad LNB, and additional receivers. Using a Freeview box is also more convenient, as you can delete channels from the EPG you don't want and re-order the lineups. You can also record programmes with a PVR box. In order to do the same with Freesat, you would need to get a non-Sky receiver but then can't watch the encrypted C4, Five, Five Life, Five US and SKY3 channels unless you are getting a special NDS cam. As you can see, it's getting quite complicated.
Overall, there are some differences between the two systems. The key is, though, the availability of the service in your area. If you can get both, then getting both might be an option. This way you would have the best of both worlds.