YouView, the joint venture between terrestrial TV channels, BT and others, has been delayed until ‘early’ 2012. But could this be too late when internet capable TVs are already on the market?
In theory YouView is a great idea. For the uninitiated, it’s a partnership between the terrestrial channels, BT and TalkTalk to create a new generation of TV set-top boxes.
It plans to offer normal Freeview TV merged seamlessly with on-demand, catch-up television via the internet, alongside other apps developed by third parties.
Merging standard TV and online TV feels like the natural next step in televised entertainment. However, as we found when Which? visited the Consumer Electronics Show in January, TV manufacturers already harbor similar aspirations. The longer YouView waits, the less relevant it’ll become.
Too many cooks spoil the broth
YouView’s principal problem is conflicting demands. Among the partners, you’ve got the BBC – a non-commercial, state-sponsored broadcaster – working alongside ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five, all of whom have slightly different demands and ideas. Then there’s the broadband providers BT and TalkTalk, and Arqiva (owners of SeeSaw), none of which are broadcasters in the traditional sense.
BBC accepts that all of them hope to make a profit from YouView in one form or another. Each, no doubt, has different ideas about the best way achieve those goals, and the BBC’s presence merely complicates things further.
It’s not just commercial factors complicating things, either. Each of the broadcasters already have their own on-demand services, and they all work in slightly different ways. Trying to marry them in a manner that’s invisible to the viewer is bound to be difficult.
As an anonymous source told the The Daily Telegraph recently about YouView’s development:
‘It [YouView] just doesn’t work when you turn it on and keeps crashing. You would think that after at least 18 months of development and at least six million pounds worth of investment from each shareholder, the box would actually work when being shown to its owners.’
Competition from internet TVs
YouView’s other problem is competition. TV manufacturers have already begun building web apps into their sets, and the next generation of internet TVs are slicker than ever before. Many offer true internet browsing and feature clever, motion-sensing remotes for easier navigation, and the diversity of content available is impressive.
Sony already has catch-up services from all the major channels in its TVs, and other manufacturer’s TVs have BBC iPlayer at the very least and will no doubt match Sony’s eventually. So why buy an extra box when you already have the functionality in your TV, or even your games consoles?
All is not quite lost
YouView’s delay is a significant impediment to its success, of that there is no doubt. However, there is some cause for hope. For all its travails it’s still a promising idea backed by money and plenty of goodwill.
But if ‘early 2012’ becomes mid or late-2012 – as large collaborative projects tend to – the odds will become slimmer with every delay.