Hot on the heels of Freesat’s Netflix partnership, the UK free-to-air digital satellite TV service has announced a new smart TV guide called Free Time.

Just to recap, Freesat is a not-for-profit joint venture between the BBC and ITV, which launched to the public in May 2008. It offers a satellite alternative to the Freeview service on digital terrestrial television, with roughly the same selection of channels.

Its new on-screen smart TV guide will be made available in its next generation Freesat+ boxes. But Free Time is much more than a simple guide to what’s on TV – it offers a catch-up service a la BBC iPlayer, letting you turn back time and watch programmes you missed first time around.

TV Guide Lo res 520x293 Your move, YouView: Freesat launches a new UK catch up TV service

It actually sounds an awful lot like what YouView offers, which launched in the UK back in July.

Similar to Freesat, YouView is a joint venture between some of the UK’s biggest TV and broadband brands, including the BBC and ITV, but also reels in Channel 4, BT and TalkTalk. It is essentially Freesat/Freeview, but with catch-up capabilities. Oh, and it also includes BSkyB’s pay-as-you-go Now TV service, which is one key differentiator.

In addition to the catch-up feature, Freesat’s new STBs will also have a Now & Next view to show what’s on TV, well, now and next. And the Showcase section serves up recommendations on programmes to watch tonight, in the coming week and on demand.

Showcase Lo res 520x293 Your move, YouView: Freesat launches a new UK catch up TV service

While Freesat launches with On Demand TV from iPlayer and ITV Player, it will also reel in 4OD and Demand 5 before Christmas, which really does make this offering nearly identical to YouView.

The next generation Freesat+ boxes will be available to buy from high street retailers such as John Lewis, Currys and Comet, as well as other retailers, and online, later this month. Humax (the same company that produced the first YouView STB) is producing the first new box with Free Time, and will be priced at £279. Boxes from Sagemcom, Philips and Manhattan will follow.

We’re also told that Freesat is planning to launch additional movie and music services in the future, as well as a companion app for smartphones and tablets to create remote control and remote record capability away from the traditional remote.

“TV is a simple pleasure that technology can make even better, not more complicated,” says Emma Scott, Managing Director of Freesat. “Our new boxes with Free Time give satellite viewers everything they get with Freesat today and so much more in a single, simple and easy to use on screen guide. We want to help viewers find something great to watch the minute they sit down, so they can spend less time searching and more time watching the TV they love.”

Last September we reported that Freesat had surpassed two million users, a figure that now sits at around 2.6 million. For those seeking a subscription-free TV service, Freesat is looking like a more compelling option, and it seems that it may start integrating the likes of Netflix or other similar services in the future, though no specific confirmation of the nature of these offerings exist. Either way, BSkyB has seen these moves coming, which is why it launched Now TV earlier this year.