YouView and iPlayer Architects Leave BBC

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As Oscar Wilde might have said: To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

Last December Anthony Rose, who had been CTO at YouView for just six months, surprised many by leaving the project. Now Eric Huggers, the man who hired Rose to help him launch the BBC catch-up portal iPlayer in 2007, has also departed.

Netherlands native Huggers is joining Intel as corporate VP and general manager of its digital home group, based in Silicon Valley.
Huggers joined the BBC in May 2007 from Microsoft, and was appointed Director of Future, Media and Technology arm in August 2008, replacing Ashley Highfield.

With Rose, whom he lured from Kazaa, Huggers is credited with revamping the iPlayer, turning it from a P2P-distributed, download-only site into a streaming service built on Flash. Its popularity soared virtually overnight from December 2007 and now regularly serves over 100m online requests a month. Views topped 1.3bn in 2010.

The concept behind Project Canvas, credited to Huggers and Rose, was to build a platform around iPlayer for on-demand TV and web content, a project eventually boarded by the other UK terrestrial broadcasters and telco BT, in what is now YouView.

In a statement, YouView said that Rose "would continue to inform development in an advisory capacity," but that YouView was "moving from the concept and design phase into the delivery phase."

Given the duo's track record, there must now be question marks over YouView's ability to launch, particularly that reports are circulating about technical hitches to the project which may re-set launch into the second half of 2011 - or beyond.

Even if YouView does get out of the gate in 2011 it will face increasingly stiff competition from a connected TV landscape populated by dozens of devices from CE manufacturers.

Merwan Mereby, VP of corporate development at Panasonic declared that, "2011 will be the breakthrough year for connected devices" while LG Electronics' president Wayne Park asserted: "2011 is all about smart product - smart TVs, smart mobiles and smart appliances."

DisplaySearch expects that 118 million net-enabled TVs will be sold worldwide by 2014, while Park Associates puts the 2015 figure at 185 milion.

The Corporation's technology division, headed up by BBC CTO John Linwood, will now cover the "underlying technology which powers the BBC" the BBC said in a statement. Rose is not being directly replaced, but Sef Tuma is appointed head of technical delivery.

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