One week after the launch of YouView Julian Clover examines the sense of disquiet emerging from some aspects of the industry.
The peasants are revolting or at least the TV manufacturers are. This week the technology trade body Intellect made clear its feelings on YouView, reiterating what many of its members had said over several years, that Europe needs a single standard for connected TV.
To them that standard is HbbTV, already in use in France, Germany and Poland with many other countries on the way.
The manufacturers need as few complications in their lives as possible and a single standard means that the same models can be shipped right the way across the continent. At the moment many sets already have MHEG-5, the standard used by the BBC and others for Red Button services.
Additional costs for including MHEG are negligible, so it is easier to include it rather than leave it out. The £299 pricetag for YouView makes it clear that this is not an option.
Simon Woodward, the CEO of ANT, the Cambridge firm that produces HbbTV software describes the Intellect proposal as a pragmatic approach to reducing market fragmentation.
“By offering a baseline for enhanced TV services that is common across European markets, we see this as both a vote of confidence in HbbTV and an acknowledgement of the need for cost-effective solutions that can be rolled out in many countries to achieve economies of scale for both device manufacturers and service providers,” he says.
Intellect’s intervention marks a break from the UK consensus that has emerged under the UK’s Digital TV Group, the organization that has done much to unify the demands of YouView with the industry as a whole.
It hasn’t been easy, but now the group says D-Book 7 adds essential elements to HbbTV to meet the requirements of the UK market. “As with all DTG specifications, the main UK service providers and manufacturers have led and contributed to the development of D-Book 7 via industry-chaired technical working groups. YouView and Freesat use the D-Book specification as the foundation for their respective services and both have played a consistently strong role in shaping UK connected TV standards,” the organization said in a statement issued in the week.
There is clearly a battle of wills going on between manufacturers and broadcasters. The set-top box was not the lead product in the emergence of Freeview HD – as much as 90% can be attributed to TV displays. But it is the set-top that YouView is leading with and a successful product might distract attention from the goodies that the TV manufacturers want to offer on their smart TVs.