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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?

Anita says:
22 August 2021

All4 has vanished from my Youview box. The TV I have isn’t affected. I should have that app as part of my subscription.

belinda says:
28 September 2021

i have a samsung tv 2012 u tube was the first to go and then channel four and channel five catch up no longer available they want you to purchase a new tv or some type of stick or box to be able to watch these catch up programmes not such a smart tv is it

We are very annoyed our 4 year old Sony smart tv is no longer smart. The problem about apps ceasing to function was known at the time but there was no warning that the functions that were sold to us would soon cease to function.

Rosine Paull says:
15 December 2021

Our Panasonic smart tv was purchased just over 2 years ago. One of the reasons we got it was to be able to watch catchup on the apps. This worked fine for about 20 months, then one day they disappeared. Panasonic say its not their problem and can’t do anything about it. Can you suggest a way to help please.

Hi Rosine – It would be interesting to know what reason Panasonic gave for why your TV can no longer receive catch-up TV. All the main brands of smart TV seem to have the same problem and it has been suggested that the manufacturers are not paying the service providers for long-term access.

Fortunately there are various solutions involving buying an external plug-in device or box that will restore the services you are missing at an affordable price. One brand that has been mentioned several times is Roku, though I have no experience. I would buy a smart TV tomorrow if I thought I could trust any TV manufacturer.

Rosine, Which? have some general information here https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/televisions/article/what-to-do-if-your-tv-has-lost-access-to-streaming-apps-aWBB64o9gA5s
I don’t have a smart tv; if I did it would not bother showing 99% of what’s broadcast. So I don’t know first hand how they operate. If you are connected to the net can proprietary apps not be downloaded?

That’s interesting. It would be helpful if there was a link to that page in the introduction to this Conversation, which focuses on Samsung smart TVs.

It would also be useful if Which? articles had links to relevant Conversations, where people can go to for help.

If only smart TVs worked in the same way as phones and computers it would be simple to install apps and do updates, but it is not that simple.

I look forward to a legal requirement to provide a minimum length of support for TVs. At least with phones, some manufacturers have been shamed into doing better.

Can anyone explain what is the overwhelming advantage of a smart TV? We had one, hardly used its ‘smart’ features, then found it didn’t function so we got rid of it, chiefly because it was over-sized for our requirements and the sound quality had deteriorated badly requiring a soundbar which was always slightly out of synch with the picture!

A smart TV can provide convenient access to a range of catch-up services, video and other internet-based services without the need for plug-in accessories and extra remote controls.

Before smart TVs arrived we had video recorders, DVD recorders, PVRs because most people want to be able to watch TV at a time that is convenient to them.

It may be possible to restore the functionality of a smart TV by following the advice provided by Which? or found elsewhere online but there is no doubt that the major manufacturers have let us down in failing to provide TVs that can easily be updated so that their smart features continue to work for years.

Already having a PVR, and a Roku stick which can be used with any modern TV [e.g. on holiday], I don’t see those built-in advantages as ‘overwhelming’, albeit convenient. Failure to sustain the functionality of what are generally very expensive TV sets has been a serious consumer let-down and possibly constitutes anti-competitive behaviour.

Yes, the advantage is convenience. I use an Apple TV and a laptop computer with my non-smart TV. I wonder how many will replace a TV that has lost smart features, maybe after the frustration of trying to find a solution.

From the Which? article: “Currently, the loss of an app probably won’t entitle you to any compensation, but some updates to the law could require TV manufacturers to guarantee a TV will have app support for up to seven years.” I look forward to learning more.

I suppose a guarantee of seven years’ support after purchase is just about sufficient given that the technology is continuously advancing [although I question whether it has to – it is largely planned obsolescence]. Most people whose smart TV has lost its smart features will understandably feel conned.

Technology does advance and one solution would be have the electronics that will need to be updated in a separate module that can be purchased and replaced by the user, much in the same way that a streaming stick can.

This is of little interest to the manufacturers who are keen to sell new TVs but if we are serious about sustainability something will have to happen.

Would it not be best to just buy a streaming stick, like Roku at £29.99 should the inbuilt tv facility eventually fail?

I don’t think so. Anyone who buys an expensive TV should not have to pay for accessories when their smart TV stops working properly and cannot simply be updated. It’s not IF but WHEN this happens, and some have reported problems after a couple of years.

I did say when a smart tv’s apps “eventually” stop working and rather than some ditching their tv, take an inexpensive and pragmatic solution. I was not suggesting it for early failures. If that happens and there is no other solution maybe the retailer should provide the accessory.

As I see it, the Consumer Rights Act is there to protect consumers in event of a typically small proportion of goods developing a fault. It seems that all smart TVs, irrespective of brand, will suffer loss of functionality and this can happen quite soon after purchase. It does not seem fair to expect retailers to foot the bill. Rosina commented on her TV suffering from the problem after 20 months and has told us: “Panasonic say it’s not their problem and can’t do anything about it.”

A streaming stick does provide a workaround but it means having to use a second remote control, so is far from ideal. But yes it is better than ditching a TV that has lost its smart features.

Owners of Samsung mobile phone owners became fed-up when they learned that their expensive phones were no longer supported after two years and thankfully Samsung now offers some models that will be supported for longer. Wouldn’t it be great if Which? would encourage us all to get involved in fighting against poor treatment by companies and other organisations.

Here’s an interesting question, we all know that “smart” devices can be hacked if not thoroughly well protected, and there must still be loads of supposedly “smart” devices out there, including TV sets which have default “admin” passwords still in place, and the question is can such a smart device still be hacked if the smart functions no longer work? I bet at least some of them can. And I bet that’s something not many folk have thought of. I wonder if anyone at Which? knows the answer or if they’ve even thought of such a question. So if you’ve got any smart contraptions then do make sure you don’t carry on using them with their default passwords where they’ve still got one. I’m glad the government have now outlawed such insecure default passwords, but surely there will still be countless devices out there which still have lousy default passwords still in use which need changing, and when you do change the password do use a long and complex one for your own safety, and your precious little ones too where smart child monitoring gadgets are in use. Don’t just assume that such gadgets can’t be hacked just because the smart functions have stopped working.

I regularly read a discussion forum hosted on Amazon. I know it is a limited sample of consumers, but there are numerous problems reported by consumers related to smart TV apps, updates and support. A common theme is the TV Manufacturer and Amazon each saying the other is responsible for the apps and support.
I have a smart TV although a few years old now, but I use an Amazon FireStick for all streaming and smart functions. I am now on the the latest generation model. I have had very few problems over the past 7 years, but any issues are CLEARLY owned by Amazon.
I remember a couple of years ago there were some articles suggesting that TV Manufacturers were withdrawing software support for “older TVs” – defined as something like only 2-3 years old.

It has been alleged that apps stop working simply because manufacturers are not paying for longer support. It would be interesting to know the facts.

” It would be interesting to know the facts.”. That applies to many Convos, but they are not always welcomed. 🙁

Is it the fault of the tv manufacturer if an app provider decides, when they upgrade their app, (like Netflix) not to support older tvs?

When I bought my previous mobile phone in 2014 I was aware that some phones were not supported for long, which is one reason I chose an iPhone after doing some reading. Nowadays the expected support life of different phones can be found on the Which? website and from other sources. It matters little to those who change their phone after a year or two but it’s important information for the rest of us.

For years, Microsoft has published the lifecycle of the various versions of Windows and other software, which is good practice. Perhaps TV manufacturers should be required to state the support life of their products and for retailers to make this information available at the point of sale, much like the energy and water consumption ratings for washing machines.

Andrew Currie says:
26 January 2022

Bought an LG TV in early December for my elderly mother. Two months on still not got Freeview Play to work on the programme guide. Argos & LG customer service useless (if you can get through) No instructions provided with TV (should be a legal requirement to provide printed instructions.)
I have spent hours and hours trying to solve the problem, causing a lot of stress, effort and expense. Freeview Play website has a helpline number that is not an active line. Very disappointed & get the feeling there is a cover up over fundamental problems with this technology not working. Internet has plenty of promotional hype for all this amazing technology but almost no authoritative info on getting it to work.

Geoffrey carew says:
18 April 2022

Why has my on demand with bbc stopped working on my Samsung smart tv