Television in the United Kingdom started in 1936 as a public service which was free of advertising. Currently, the United Kingdom has a collection of free-to-air, free-to-view and subscription services over a variety of distribution media, through which there are over 480 channels for consumers as well as on-demand content. There are six main channel owners who are responsible for most viewing. There are 27,000 hours of domestic content produced a year at a cost of £2.6 billion. Since 24 October 2012, all television broadcasts in the United Kingdom are in a digital format, following the end of analogue transmissions in Northern Ireland. Digital content is delivered via terrestrial, satellite and cable as well as over IP.
Free-to-air, free-to-view and subscription providers are available, with differences in the number of channels, capabilities such as the programme guide (EPG), video on demand (VOD), high-definition (HD), interactive television via the red button, and coverage across the UK. Set-top boxes are generally used to receive these services; however integrated digital televisions (IDTVs) can also be used to receive Freeview or Freesat. Most TVs sold in the UK come with a DVB-T (terrestrial) tuner for Freeview – a rare thing in Europe. BT TV and TalkTalk TV, both based on YouView, use hybrid boxes which receive Freeview as well as additional subscription services. Households viewing TV from the internet (YouTube, Joost, downloads etc.) are not tracked by Ofcom. The UK’s five most watched channels, BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, are available from all providers.