/ Technology

Is your smart TV missing key catch-up and on-demand apps?

You’d be shocked if you turned on the TV to find that some major broadcast channels weren’t available on your brand of television. But when it comes to smart TV apps, such as ITV Hub and All 4, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Update 11/03/2019

Pricey TVs losing access to BBC iPlayer is a problem that won’t go away. Our members, as well as people here on Which? Conversation, have told us that the app can go missing for months.

What to do if your Samsung TV has lost BBC iPlayer

The problem isn’t limited to Samsung TVs, but the majority of people notifying us of the issues had a Samsung set.

We believe both Samsung and the BBC need to be more up front about compatbility issues – users should be alerted to the problem, and a relastic timeline of when it can be fixed should be given.

Have you lost access to BBC iPlayer on your TV? Let us know in the comments.

Original convo 19/04/2017

I expect a lot from my smart TV. I want to be able to watch the live cricket, flick over to Mad Men or Happy Valley in the Netflix app, and then perhaps head to All 4 (the Channel 4 catch-up app) to watch the episodes of Catastrophe that I’ve missed, all without ever leaving my sofa.

And most people want much the same. In a recent survey of more than 4,000 members, two thirds of smart TV owners said the availability of catch-up and on-demand apps was important when buying their TV.

So it’s no surprise that customers are left dumb-founded when these are missing from their brand-new smart TV.

The murky world of missing apps

Despite Samsung becoming the first manufacturer to offer the full complement of BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 catch-up apps in 2013, its 2015 and 2016 smart TVs were all missing these for several months when they were first available to buy.

At the time of writing, All 4 still hadn’t been released on its 2016 smart TVs – more than nine months after they were released.

Samsung said:

‘The Samsung Smart TV platform is used by content providers to make their apps available to consumers, and many factors can affect the speed in which this happens. Samsung is committed to working with content providers to make apps available as quickly as possible, whilst providing the best offering and experience.’

But waiting weeks or even months for the apps to appear isn’t the only issue – some will never be available on certain brands of TV. For example, LG, Panasonic and Sony smart TVs bought between 2011 and 2014 won’t ever have the ITV Hub nor All 4 apps.

And with TV manufacturers and retailers warning that the availability of third-party apps is subject to change, you could even discover that some become defunct a few years down the line.

A solution?

So what are smart TV manufacturers doing to ensure these key apps are available on their new models?

Well, most Panasonic and LG smart TVs now incorporate Freeview Play in their smart TV platforms. This handy system integrates catch-up TV into the electronic programme guide, allowing LG and Panasonic to offer all the key services.

Smaller brands Hisense, JVC and Toshiba all recently announced they will be also integrating Freeview Play into some of their TVs, while Sony has incorporated YouView, a similar system offering the main catch-up apps, in its smart TVs since 2015.

Not only do Freeview Play and YouView allow TV brands to offer BBC iPlayer, the ITV Hub, All 4 and My 5, the apps are on the TVs as soon as they become available, so you won’t be waiting weeks or months for them to appear.

This means that Samsung – which has yet to make any clear commitment to include either Freeview Play or YouView in its smart TVs – has gone from being the only major brand able to offer all the main catch-up apps to being the only one not able to offer them from when the TVs first become available to buy.

As Freeview Play and YouView are relatively young, we’re yet to see whether these systems will lose support for catch-up TV services.

But Freeview did tell us that it had considered this when designing the system:

‘While we cannot absolutely guarantee that all our content partner’s apps and services will be present for the life of the device, we have taken steps to ensure that Freeview Play offers the greatest possible chance of achieving this by mandating the very latest connected TV technology and enforcing common standards.’

But, to me, the fact that most apps are now available on your brand-new TV from the start is definitely an improvement.

Is your smart TV missing key catch-up and on-demand apps? Or was it when you first bought it?

David Hammond says:
16 March 2019

We bought a Samsung UE48JU7000 TV with Freeview about 3 years ago & BBC iPlayer worked OK. In recent months, our access to BBC iPlayer has been blocked because we do not have an account with the BBC.
We have paid for our BBC TV licence – why do we need to register with the BBC? We are over 70 years & many of our older friends have no computer or smart phone and cannot register online.

There is advice available on this page: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/help/how-to-guides/getting-started/television_iplayer There is a link for contacting iPlayer Help near the bottom of the page.

Andrew White says:
18 March 2019

Just register. It’s free and causes no hassle.

I got a message about a year ago that BBC iplayer would no longer work, my Samsung TV is a few years old. Before that, it didn’t work properly, after one programme it refused to play another.
Fortunately, I can get such programmes through my Panasonic HD recorder.

Jeremy Meppen-Walter says:
16 March 2019

My Sony Bravia KDL 42W 829B digital flat screen freeview TV that I bought in 2013 for the World Cup now only has BBC iplayer for catch up TV viewing. Not able to get the other catchup hubs such as ITV, Channel 4 or MY5 as well. I had to sign in with BBC website to get the new updated app last year to continue watching iplayer using my tablet. I also bought a NOW TV box for movies which allowed me to use the iplayer app on it and have access to freeview catchup apps for ITV hub Channel 4 and MY5. The reception is good with excellent HD screen quality. Well worth the £7.99 monthly subscription. Perhaps this is the answer for getting freeview apps albeit they are not free. Hope these comments are helpful to all those frustrated viewers.

Julia Hutchison says:
17 March 2019

I’ve had My Samsung for around 5 years and enjoyed watching Amazon prime among other things. Suddenly I can no longer access the app through smart TV. Despite updating it still won’t work. Very disappointing

Smart TVs losing functionality is probably the best example of built-in obsolescence and the problem seems to affect all brands. This press release from BEUC, the European consumers’ association, offers a little hope: https://www.beuc.eu/publications/beuc-web-2019-003_eu_concludes_reform_with_stronger_guarantee_rights_for_consumers_in_future.pdf

I cannot believe that the UK is the only country affected and hope that all consumer associations will work with BEUC to push for change.

That sounds promising.

It would be good to know that Which? is working with BEUC. Thank goodness that computers can usually be updated for a decent length of time.

anna says:
11 April 2019

And we want to leave EU…………………………….

Leaving the EU doesn’t mean that Which? cannot, or should not, cooperate with other consumer organisations on the continent. The BEUC is not an EU institution.

Alan says:
15 April 2019

Yes we do !

Freeview Play on the DVD player has turned our dumb TV into a smart TV so I checked it out this morning. We have catch-up on Sky so haven’t had the need to use the Freeview aps so I can’t say for certain whether we have lost any or not.

What I do find very disconcerting though is the requirement to read and accept long T&Cs, accept cookies and log in to be able to use the BBC, C4 & 5 catch-up services. ITV would appear to let you watch without those conditions although I didn’t actually try to watch anything on catch-up.

BBC is paid for by the public via their TV licence. Do they have the right to stop you watching i-player on your TV unless you agree to their conditions when you have paid a licence fee? They can’t claim it is for targeted ads.

Don Frankland says:
17 March 2019

When I bought my Panasonic smart tv about 4 years ago it gave me access to catch up on all the main stream channels plus UKtv and others. Then suddenly about 18 months ago almost all the apps disappeared and now I can only get BBC iplayer and channel 5.
One of the reasons for choosing that tv was for the extensive range of catch-up apps and I now feel cheated and will probably never buy Panasonic again.

Joan Wilkinson says:
12 April 2019

Me too but channel 5 has just disappeared leaving me with BBC only really annoying.

John Stenton O'Brien says:
18 March 2019

I have a new L.G. 43″ tv and can get all Catch-up on demand. However, I cannot get Subtitles on any of the channels I request. Who would be responsible for providing Subtitles?

Clive Bray says:
18 March 2019

It’s not just a problem of loosing apps. Our Samsung TV (UE32J5600) will no longer connect wirelessly to the router. I have looked on the internet to seek a solution, and discovered that this seems to be a common problem with some Samsung models.

Richard O'Brien says:
19 March 2019

A NOW! TV stick, £12 from Amazon, solved the problem for my 2012 Samsung not-so-Smart TV.

K galvin says:
26 March 2019

Panasonic smart tv not that smart less than 2 years old now suddenly lost all HD channels and now lost all 4 and my5 on demand??
Why is this??

Hannah Stewart says:
28 March 2019

My Panasonic smart tv bought in 2016 doesn’t have the channel 4 app and in the last couple of days the channel 5 one has disappeared too? I have bbc, itv, bbc news and bbc sport, for now.. really dissapointed

Paula says:
28 March 2019

We have lost channel 4 and my5 on demand apps on the Freeview play🤬

Steven Whyman says:
1 April 2019

We have a Panasonic TV too and All4 and My5 have both just disappeared. Very frustrating and annoying as there isn’t any information available to help solve the issue. Perhaps Which could help?

Steve conen says:
1 April 2019

Panasonic need to re-install the on demand Apps on the portal what’s the point in paying for the top of the range TV and removing access to them a lot of annoyed customers
I’ve had Panasonic TVs for 15 years never had second thoughts of buying another one but will certainly look at alternatives now

Steve Conen says:
3 April 2019

I had this back from Panasonic today not good reading

Hi Steve,

Thank you for providing those details for me.

The services provided through smart TV applications are operated by their respective service providers and such service can be discontinued either temporarily or permanently without notice. Therefore, Panasonic and other brand manufacturers cannot guarantee the contents or the continuity of the services, as they do not fall under the control of the hardware manufacturer of the units.

I’m afraid the only way to view these apps on your TV now would be to use a smart TV device like a Google Chromecast or a Roku TV stick. If you were to purchase a smart TV device, we can reimburse this cost to you up to the value of £40.00 providing you can send us a copy of the proof of purchase for it.

The one exception here is Skype, which cannot be added to your TV at all anymore, even with the use of a third-party device. This is because Skype themselves made the decision to stop supporting their TV apps in 2016, and so older versions of the app have also ceased working properly, and will gradually disappear altogether. You might still be able to use Skype if you use casting/mirroring from a compatible device like a smartphone, as this would use a supported version of the app/web browser.

I appreciate that this response might be disappointing, and I apologise that Panasonic cannot reinstate the apps for you. If you would like to take up the offer of a smart TV device, please so let me know.

Kind Regards,

Online Support Team

Thanks for investigating your problem and reporting back, Steve. Perhaps Panasonic (and other manufacturers) should be making this information available at the point of sale. It’s not just customers’ money that is at stake here but the environmental damage caused by scrapping TVs just because of obsolete software.

It’s very disappointing that Which? does not point out that smart TVs are likely to lose their apps within a few years of purchase: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/televisions/article/what-is-smart-tv

Now that many products are dependent on software we could see other problems in future.

At least Panasonic sent a courteous, well-written and helpful letter and offered you some partial recompense.

I agree with Wavechange on notifying consumers of these limitations on accessing certain channels or applications.

I searched the Panasonic website and could not find any advice relating to loss of apps.

Out of interest I have phoned several companies about faults with their products. that have been discussed on Which? Convo, even though I had not not a customer. For example LED Hut said they were aware of radio interference from LED lamps, but there is nothing on their website.

anna says:
11 April 2019

I have a Sony Bravia KDL32W705C smart tv purchased June 2015 with five year guarantee. I can’t access the internet and the only app accessible and available is BBC Iplayer …. but it doesn’t play subtitles on iplayer so is useless. Am in contact with Sony help but not helpful at moment.

Joan Wilkinson says:
12 April 2019

I was livid I bought a Panasonic TV which had all on demand stations (the reason I bought it) one by one they have disappeared and now I am left with BBC 1 only. I feel cheated and I am really cross about it.

Sorry to hear that, Joan. Do you have any alternative means of accessing the apps?