YouView Is in Shops and Has Major Backing; Now, Will it Succeed?

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"YouView has pulled down the barriers and provided technology that enables content producers to do everything they ever wanted," declares Richard Halton, CEO of the U.K. internet connected TV service which got out of the gate just before the London Olympics.

He refuses to be drawn on estimates of numbers for the success of the project, but expresses satisfaction with its early reception.

"I am very pleased to see it in shops, but the best reward for our efforts are some early reviews which understood that it does what we set out to do: that is, to seamlessly integrate on-demand and broadcast linear content," Halton says.

While the main marketing push for the platform won't be triggered until the run up to Christmas, Halton says, "If you get the backing of the likes of BBC and BT, you are not shooting for a couple thousand homes."

YouView is managed by a consortia comprising U.K. broadcasters BBC, ITV, C4, and Five; telcos BT and TalkTalk; hardware firms Cisco, Humax, and Technicolor; and the U.K.'s digital terrestrial infrastructure provider Arqiva. Sky has since added its OTT service NOW TV. YouView was devised as a means to future-proof free-to-air television against pay TV, and will target the estimated 9 million (31 per cent) non-pay TV homes that have a broadband connection.

"We've achieved a few things unprecedented for this kind of hardware," explains Halton. "For example, implementing commercial grade DRM and getting device manufacturers onboard with that is unusual in the horizontal marketplace. Normally, pay TV operators put in place the infrastructure that enables that to happen.

"We also have a box that is upgradeable in the field, which again proved highly complex in terms of lining up various manufacturers but essential if you want the ability to constantly evolve the content proposition and the nature of the viewing experience."

Live streaming is one such addition, a property that BT's subscription video-on-demand service BT Vision, with its freshly minted three year, £738 million English Premier League football rights, is keen to exploit.

"The third factor is dynamic ad insertion for deployment by content providers. If you look at the media specifications of efforts in Europe they have ducked all three of those things. We recognise that to be a success in the U.K. with its mature broadcast market you need to grasp those nettles. We have succeeded in creating an ambitious platform fully capable of uniting content from free-to-air, ad-funded and pay TV."

While the U.K.'s broadcasters have offered on-demand and catch up content for a number of years, what may differentiate YouView is the way in which it evolves over time -- over 300 potential content partners are looking to join the platform.

"For a Netflix, for example, just being part of the TV EPG is very important," Halton says. "It means that their content is being discovered by viewers alongside the broadcast content as opposed to being stuck in an apps ghetto on connected TVs.

"We will also see people creating new connected content applications, perhaps from those who have been deterred by the constraints of the DTT spec, but have innovative services to offer to the living room.

"There is now an expectation of catch-up services and access to on-demand content as part of the TV experience."

Richard Halton is keynoting the session Digital Media Connections: How Viewer Behavior is Driving New Revenue, 07 September, IBC at the RAI, Amsterdam

Richard Halton

Richard Halton

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