Following much-criticised delays, open IPTV platform YouView has finally launched, with confirmation that Humax-produced set-top boxes will be available via UK retail outlets towards the end of July at a cost of £299. YouView CEO Richard Halton revealed that Sky’s online service NOW TV would be a content partner.
Describing the launch as “a great moment in British television,” YouView Chairman Lord Sugar said the boxes were currently being trialled before retail release. “Initial feedback is that people are very happy with YouView,” he claimed, extolling the virtues of “British technology”.
ISP partners BT and TalkTalk will reveal their own pricing and bundling packages at a later stage.
“YouView is innovative, easy-to-use and perfect for our customers,” said Dido Harding, CEO, TalkTalk. “YouView from TalkTalk will give customers an extraordinary TV experience that is accessible and affordable for all.”
In addition to confirming retail availability, YouView CEO Richard Halton revealed that as well as existing consortium content partners BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, Sky’s NOW TV OTT online service and Scottish commercial TV licensee would be available on YouView “this summer”.
Simon Creasey, Director of NOW TV, said the OTT service would be launched across a wide variety of platforms and devices to make it as easy and convenient for customers to access some of Sky’s best content. “We’re excited about distributing our content on YouView and in giving current free-to-air homes a fresh new choice,” he said.
Richard Halton,YouView’s CEO, said that YouView was committed to providing the very best content and had received over 300 expressions of interest from potential content partners. A formal ‘enrolment’ process is to be initiated.
Underlining the commitment of the consortium partners to the initiative, Sugar and Halton were joined at the media-focused event by fellow C-level executives from BT, TalkTalk, BBC, ITV, Channel, Channel 5, and Arqiva. Responding to suggestions that YouView’s launch was too late, and had been superseded by other initiatives, Mark Thompson, the BBC’s Director-General, noted that the corporation had a record of investing in alternative platforms for distributing its content which had ultimately proved to be successful propositions. “Freeview now has 20 million boxes, iPlayer was a couple of years late, but had two billion streams last year,” he advised.
Initial reaction to the launch was mixed. Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at Broadbandchoices.co.uk, said that YouView’s launch would give the digital TV market “an exciting shot in the arm” offering over 100 channels, adding that the one-off cost for the set-top box was “quite pricey”. “£299 for customers who purchase direct from retailers instead of through a broadband and TV bundle means it could be worth waiting for the broadband providers to launch their own set-top boxes as part of a bundle. These bundles will probably also make allowances for increased downloading via on demand services so customers will avoid those dreaded excess download fees,” he advised.
“Having no monthly subscription fee is a very attractive proposition but YouView will still offer premium content for a fee on a PAYG basis. Customers should weigh up the benefits of paying for ad hoc additional content versus the cost of an inclusive digital TV subscription package and work out what is best for them,” he recommended.
Although recognising that YouView was “a significant leap forward” from the current Freeview offering, he suggested that none of this was new “Sky, BT Vision and Virgin Media have all offered HD, on demand and catch up content for a number of years. What will differentiate YouView is the way in which it evolves over time – over 300 potential content partners are looking to join the platform.”
According to Jonathan Doran, principal analyst, Ovum Consumer, the YouView launch marks the arrival of yet another connected TV option onto the shelves of the UK consumer electronics retail outlets and yet another potential decision for consumers to make about which device to use as their main source of home video entertainment.
“What sets YouView apart from most existing OTT TV options is that it promises to pull together baseline linear TV services – which are still very much in demand in the UK at least and a range of web-delivered, on-demand video options into the same device and, more importantly the same interface. This is something the most widely adopted large-screen OTT options available via games consoles and connected TVs have failed to do. While the UI looks sleek and the expected line-up of content partners is impressive, we didn’t see anything particularly revolutionary about the highlighted features such as the backward-looking EPG and search capabilities across both broadband and broadcast content sources,” he noted.
“Given high price point and the availability of only a single retail launch model, it would appear that YouView is banking on its ISP members to do most of the marketing and customer education around the product. Inevitably, service providers will offer STB subsidies to attract consumers to their YouView propositions. Whilst concrete details of BT and TalkTalk service launches have yet to be announced, it was indicated today that they will be offering YouView as a value-add to their broadband offerings rather than a standalone TV service. This imminent shift of the telcos away from a closed network subscription TV model towards a semi-tethered broadband VAS proposition is probably the most significant implication of the arrival of YouView,” he concluded.