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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?

Comments
Tony Thompson says:
29 April 2019

Hi Have a Hisense 50in Smart TV that _does_ have ITVHub, but only the catch up section. The “Live TV” link is missing.

ITV’s response was:
*At this moment in time, the only devices which currently have Live TV on the ITV Hub app are:
NowTV stick/box, IOS devices (iPhone, iPad Apple TV), Android devices (Mobiles & tablets), PC/Laptop, Amazon Fire-stick & some Samsung Smart TVs.*.

I just don’t get it. How can they suppress the link on some TVs? and not others?

Tom says:
26 May 2019

Our new LG tv did have iplayer and more4 but they have both now been taken off with a note saying something went wrong! Looks like we have lost them altogether. LG says apps aren’t guaranteed!!!

I know that some features of BBC iPlayer used to be suppressed on PC’s but not on iDevices.

I used a 3rd party fix for that. It worked by offering spoofed (or faked) credentials to the iPlayer website, so it treated my PC as an iDevice instead of a PC.

I bet most so-called smart TV’s don’t run standard Android, iOS or Windows (etc.). Hence, if they aren’t running a fully supported OS, it will be easy for the ITV server to detect this and identify that they don’t qualify to receive all the live streams.

As an illustration, I can interrogate the PC I’m posting from to see exactly what OS it is running.Its response is “4.15.0-50-generic #54-Ubuntu SMP Mon May 6 18:46:08 UTC 2019 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux” which could be used to show a server that I’m not running any of Windows, Android or MacOS.

Zoe says:
29 April 2019

I have a panosonic smart tv and recently had to retune it. Now when I go onto internet my itvhub and 4 catch up apps have gone! I have to go onto google and watch it that’s way but I can’t get full screen! Cani get the apps back off so how please?

Can’t get ITV hub on my 2014 Sony *supposedly* smart TV – a massive miss. Even more annoying when ITV glibly say “oh, you can get everything on the hub” – no you can’t! and many of their extra ITV+1 channels cut off at midnight – even when that means missing the crucial last 2 mins revelations of a 2-hour long detective drama like ‘Endeavour’! You get the impression the executives concerned never watch their own channels, or this would have been sorted years ago.

DAVID LEVY says:
9 May 2019

I just bought a 43 inch Philips TV 6503 Series which has Freeview Play and lots of Smart Apps. Unfortunately the UKTV Play app is hidden and not listed with the other installed apps and is not listed on the App Gallery with the apps not installed on my TV. The only way I can access the UKTV Play app is to go to the Freeview Play TV guide and press the green button when I have the cursor on one of the UKTV channels such as Dave.
I think this is ridiculous as all the other catch up apps are listed in the apps menu. The only other app that is not listed is NOW TV but that is because I don’t think that is available with my TV anyway.

There is an app called Freeview Explore on my TV as well but that app is rubbish as it only has about 10 videos from various channels such as Dave but it does not give you access to the complete library like what Freeview claim on their website.
This is a very good TV but just has some small issues that are annoying such as when I want to change sources sometimes the sources menu will disappear in less than a second which gives me no time to make my selection.

Joanna Griffiths says:
13 May 2019

Some programmes simply not available to catch-up via ITV Hub on our Sony Smart TV (eg VICTORIA). They used to be and suddenly they’re not!

Elaine Jakeman says:
20 May 2019

I purchased a Blaupunkt smart tv last month from Currys. The apps are useless unless you live in Germany. Netflix and BBC iplayer is the full extent of its UK apps. So it is in effect a Dumb TV unless you live in mainland europe!. So still rely on a nowtv box to get other catch up services