YouView is scheduled for a summer launch. Early indications suggest it may not be an easy sell, writes Julian Clover.
Even before the untimely departure of Anthony Rose as the CTO of YouView I was beginning to worry a little about YouView.
My concern was based on the sales of Freeview HD receivers, as explained by Humax at the manufacturers regular pre-Christmas get-together. Sales of Freeview HD have not exactly been tardy. But Humax were able to publically confirm what we already suspected. Those purchases that have been made are for either the PVR product or an IDTV – the latter presumably acquired by those people who had intended to buy a new television in the first place.
YouView won’t have such a cushion as the first IDTVs with the British hybrid solution on board are not likely to appear on the market until 2012.
The cheapest Freeview HD zapper on sale at Currys is priced at £49.99 and is branded under the little known Digihome marque. £119 is where most of the range sits, a long way from the £25 you can pay for a cheap and cheerful standard definition box. The cheapest DVR model is a Sagemcom model costing £199, but the device has been discounted from £249.
No one is saying how much a YouView box might cost. The initial YouView products will have a PVR, so that puts them closer to £199, before you add the additional complexities desired by YouView’s broadcaster and ISP shareholders.
But will the Great British Public bite? According to Oliver & Ohlbaum’s survey only 4% of those questioned would be prepared to drop their pay-TV service in favour of YouView. Probably not that surprising, even if there is no really sufficient information in the public domain, to be precise the man in the street as opposed to those who read publications such as this, about what YouView will actually offer.
For the 50% of the country who already have pay-TV in some shape or form are hardly going to switch to a service that may not have all of their channels of choice. Current thinking is also that linear ‘live’ television will dominate through until the end of the decade. By 2015 only 20% of viewing can be expected to come from on demand services, much of it catch-up, and even that might actually come from the canalbalisation of content currently drawn from the PVR.
We don’t yet know what effect the departure of Rose, who did so much to develop the BBC iPlayer, might have on how YouView ends up. Many technology decisions have already been taken, but there may be more to come.
The combination of the fall in receiver prices and the availability of IDTVs has helped push Freeview sales. Who knows how many Connected TVs and 3DTVs might be sold just because the family need a new set and there is little price difference with what they thought they might buy. YouView can ride this wave too, providing the new man puts the right technology in place.