YouView unveiled – at last
Editor ©RapidTVNews | 04-07-2012
Almost three years after it was first proposed as an alternative to subscription TV in the UK, the YouView consortium has finally taken the wraps off its long-awaited non-subscription catch-up TV and VOD service.
The service was launched in London by YouView CEO Richard Halton plus Chairman Lord Alan Sugar along with representatives from the key shareholders in the consortium, comprising a who’s who of British TV, most notably BBC Director General Mark Thompson and ITV CEO Adam Crozier, as well as representatives from partners BT, TalkTalk, Arqiva, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
In characteristically boisterous and plain-speaking mode, Sugar described the launch as a great moment in British TV and lauded the all-British technology used including the Humax set-top box that YouView will initially run on. The STB will offer a PVR and two TV tuners and sell for a price of £299 from leading UK retail chains including John Lewis, Curry’s, Comet, Argos, Amazon, Richer Sounds and the Euronics group. BT and TalkTalk will announce their packages soon and from launch they will offer additional content and services to customers accessing YouView via their broadband networks.
At launch, the service will offer access to more than 100 digital TV and radio channels, seven-day catch-up and on demand programmes from the content libraries of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 - all delivered to the viewer’s main TV. It includes an electronic programme guide (EPG) that allows users to scroll back seven days to catch up on programmes with the ability to watch in HD and record, pause and rewind live TV.
Significantly, it was revealed that STV and the forthcoming Sky over-the-top (OTT) player NOW TV will be available alongside content such as the BBC iPlayer, ITV player, and those from Channel 5 and 4oD.
Despite the welter of technology included, the partners, and in particular Sugar, were keen to stress that the service was a mainstream offering designed at those - Sugar calculated around 15 million - homes which did not subscribe to a pay-TV subscription in the UK, or what he described as the Freeview audience. “People won’t need other HD offerings, they will only need this in their homes. It’s aimed from people like me to Mrs Smith on the 17th floor of a tower block in Newham,” he asserted.
It was also revealed that the consortium had spent almost £17 million in developing the proposition, including a £10 million investment for the BBC. Defending the decision to make such a huge investment in a project that has been beset by delay, Mark Thompson was very keen to point out that the corporation had a track record of backing projects the worth of which was always initially questioned but which came to be hugely successful for wider audiences.
“People questioned our investment in Freeview which has now shipped 20 million boxes, and when the iPlayer launched as it was not perfect, people said that we had missed the boat, but that now has 2 billion streams a year. YouView has clarity and simplicity in the offer, with stability and an enormous weight of content. We think it’s another compelling platform that we are proud to be part of,” insisted the soon-to-be-former DG.
Sugar also highlighted that the big benefit of the product was its simplicity, both in terms of the EPG and subsequent navigation, but also in its set up. He remarked: “It’s built for the non-technology conscious. It can’t be easier… there’s no two-inch thick guide, just a very simple crib sheet for installation. You just need to do three things: plug in the 13-amp plug, the TV aerial and the Ethernet connector. And if you can’t understand that, then you shouldn’t really be watching TV.”