YouView is “not anti-competitive, it creates competition” according to Kip Meek, Chairman of the venture, who argued that it created content at three levels: device, content and platform. Meek suggested that as YouView was an early stage project, it would have been difficult for Ofcom or any competition authority to have deemed it anti-competitive at this point in its life.
Meek told members of the Broadcasting Press Guild that 40 different suppliers had expressed interest in manufacturing devices for the service, suggesting they were “lining up at the door to become involved,” and that this in due course would translate into competition in consumer electronics shops across the UK. Companies such as Humax, Technicolor, Intel, ST Microelectronics, Cisco and Pace were either already technology partners or closely associated with the project.
“It will also create competition at the content level,” he said, admitting that this was one of the things he found exciting about YouView. He that entry cost were high for content owners seeking to launch a channel on other platforms such as DTT, satellite or cable. “IP is much, much lower,” he argued. “It’s really important for content providers that this new opportunity is created,” he said, adding that it was previously difficult for some content owners to obtain distribution “at a remotely economic cost. It gives them a new outlet that otherwise they would not have. That’s a huge new area.”
In terms of platform level competition, Meek suggested that “if you are Sky or Virgin, you have every reason to be concerned; you’d prefer YouView not to exist, but that does not mean that it is anti-competitive,” an allusion to both companies’ separate complaints to Ofcom regarding their perception of YouView as anti-competitive (see above). He said “in fact, the whole point is, it’s competitive with them; that’s why they don’t like it.” He later admitted that it would be “fantastic” to have Sky on board as a content provider and that YouView CEO Richard Halton had held initial talks with the broadcaster, which would be an affiliate initially, as the founding shareholders didn’t wish to change the structure of the company in the run-up to the service launch, still scheduled for the first half of 2011.
He said that one of Virgin’s concerns related to the User Interface, which he admitted imposed a particular way in which content is presented to a consumer, “but that is the way in which you make something attractive to a consumer,” he argued. “Consumers need to be helped. They need something that is simple. Having a simple User Interface that is standard is good for the consumers and indeed is no different in old language from an EPG [Electronic Programme Guide]. It’s something that’s necessary and a good thing.”
He contended that this whole approach was good for consumers because it enabled competition. “Without this, one could envisage that the DTT platform would wither and die, and in my view, not a good thing.”