Canvas to be branded as YouView

Project Canvas has confirmed that it will go live as YouView. The name for the BBC-led hybrid venture was unveiled alongside a new website that promises a combination of catch-up TV, free-TV, apps and widgets.

Richard Halton, formerly project director, has been appointed as CEO of the newly formed YouView TV Ltd. He will work alongside Kip Meek, the company chairman, appointed in August.

The first application will be a seven-day EPG that goes both backwards and forwards, providing instant access to catch-up TV services from shareholder broadcasters that include the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five. The other shareholders in YouView are BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva.

“YouView is a brilliant new subscription-free TV service which combines the best TV with on demand services and internet content. I am delighted to be leading the team who will make it a reality and think it will change the way we watch TV forever,” said Halton. Previously the head of the BBC’s corporate strategy team, Halton has led Project Canvas from its inception. He is also a former board member of Freeview.

The launch of YouView/Canvas has not been without its detractors, Sky and Virgin Media have led the chorus of disapproval. The 50% of the UK with pay-TV subscriptions are likely to ignore the service in favour of Virgin Media’s TiVo or Sky’s own hybrid plans Sky+ Anytime.

“There’s a pressing need for a thorough and independent examination of this closed, anti-competitive platform as it will restrict consumer choice and stifle innovation,” said a Virgin Media spokesperson. “We’re all already paying for this through the licence fee, whether we want it or not, so we urge Ofcom to bring some much needed transparency to the whole collaboration.”

YouView is anticipating a launch in the first half of 2011. The initial set-top boxes will be designed for the Freeview DTT platform and include a personal video recorder. The new company will choose from the 40 manufacturers that have expressed an interest in managing devices for the platform.

Viewers will  be able to simply search for the kind of programmes they like by genre, interest or locality, including films, sports and new content from the internet. Plans to offer an applications store will also give viewers new types of services and levels of interactivity with their favourite programmes.

Like Freeview and Freesat before it, YouView will be marketed under the buy once, no subscription mantra, although consumers will need to have a broadband connection. YouView currently has no payment mechanism of its own. However, subscriber management company MGt has already stepped forward with a proposal for a unified payment system known as PayWizard.

The various interactive applications will be built on top of the Digital TV Group’s Connected TV specifications. At IBC 2010 by Simon Gauntlett, the technical director of the DTG, explained the differences between HBB and the DTG’s Connected TV (CTV) specifications as being. “Enhanced security handling and advanced metadata handling.” This suggests that a possible coming together with HBB and its commercial implementation HBBtv may ultimately be possible.

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