With conversations hotting up over whether the compulsory TV licence should stay or go, the arrival of a new sweetener could influence the debate. YouView, an internet connected TV service, has been announced.
Previously known as Project Canvas, YouView is a partnership between the BBC, ITV, Five, Channel 4, Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk. The service will offer Freeview channels, on-demand TV (iPlayer, 4oD, ITV.com) and access to other websites, such as Flickr and YouTube.
The service, nicknamed ‘Freeview Mark Two’ by some, will be offered through a set-top box, which will either cost as much as £200 or could be offered for free if you sign up to broadband with BT or TalkTalk.
YouView could certainly be a boon of a TV service, playing a large part in bringing internet TV into the living room and taking a stab at the subscription packages offered by Virgin Media and Sky. Both of which aren’t too happy with the innovation, claiming it’s ‘anti-competitive’.
Added value for the licence fee?
But could this be the type of service that will add extra value to the BBC TV licence? In some people’s eyes it could even make the licence fee worthwhile.
Apart from the cost of the set-top box, you’ll be getting a service that’s usually restricted to additional subscription packages. Not only will you be able to search for your favourite programmes and watch them on-demand, you’ll be able to record entire series, and even pause or rewind live TV. Other firms could even create online ‘Apps’ for the service.
Of course, web-enabled TVs are already starting to trickle onto the market, with Google TV soon on its way. These will give you access to the same BBC iPlayer, 4oD and ITV.com offered by YouView. Plus, you can even watch the BBC iPlayer through the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, with 4oD planned for the former.
Each of the project’s partners have pumped £18m into the project, meaning that a fair chunk of the cash has come from licence fee payers, whether they want the service or not.
So is YouView actually worth it?
I think offering a web-enabled set-top box that doesn’t come with hidden or continuing costs is a great idea for those of us who don’t want to pay for a subscription, or buy another damned TV.
Loads of us have already upgraded to HDTVs and we’re being bombarded with 3D tellies. Do we really want to buy another TV just to access the internet? Watching internet TV is already well used on our computers, so why can’t licence fee payers be at the forefront of its transition to the living room?