Why have so many channels changed numbers on Freeview this week?

This week's Freeview channel reshuffles are part of a deal between BBC Studios and Discovery, as Really and Home switch to Discovery's ownership.

On Tuesday, Freeview channels Really and Home officially became part of Discovery's portfolio of channels, alongside pay-channel Good Food, with BBC Studios retaining the remaining UKTV family of channels, including Dave, Drama and Yesterday. 

Control of Freeview channel 12 became part of the negotiations between BBC Studios and Discovery, with it being used as sweetener to help BBC Studios seal the deal.

For viewers, this has meant two channel changes this week.

On Monday, one day ahead of the transfer of ownership, Home moved from channel 25 to 12, resulting in Dave moving from channel 12 to 19,  and Yesterday moving from 19 to 25.

On Wednesday, one day after the transfer of ownership, Home moved from channel 12 to 42, allowing Discovery to move DMAX from 42 to 37 and enabling it to promote Quest from 37 to the prime slot of channel 12.

The changes were made in two stages due to rules governing Freeview channel numbering. The rules state that broadcasters can't just trade channel numbers between themselves. What they can do is make one reshuffle every 12 months within their own channel portfolios. 

So while all UKTV channels were still under single ownership, Home could be reshuffled to channel 12, allowing Discovery to acquire control of channel 12 at the same time as taking over Home.

Once Home came under Discovery's control, Discovery triggered a reshuffle of its channel portfolio, moving Home, DMAX and Quest.

Unfortunately, viewers and installers were the losers in the process, as they were only informed of the first change a few days before hand; it was at such short notice that TV listings guides were not able to be informed in time and the usual on-screen text pop-ups that often accompany a Freeview channel change were also missing.

The second change was only communicated a few hours before the change was due to take place.

Importantly, though, the changes only affect channel numbers and not frequencies/multiplexes, so viewers with older TVs that don't auto-retune will still be able to access all the affected channels for the time being, albeit on the old channel numbers. Other receivers may need to go through a full retune if they have shunted any of the affected channels to the bottom of the channel list.

Online, pages relating to Really, Home and Good Food are in the process of being split from the rest of UKTV. The UKTV Play website still has content from Really and Home for the time being, but it appears really.uktv.co.uk will soon change to reallytv.co.uk.

Initially, little will change on screen until Discovery set out their longer term plans for their new channels.

Dan Sutton
RXTV Newsdesk