Ofcom has given its qualified approval to YouView, but the future is still not entirely clear, writes Julian Clover.
There is a lot to puzzle about in the Ofcom decision that YouView does not need a full-blown investigation. The regulator has clearly examined all the points, just that the outcome is in the negative. This will no doubt fuel those who are currently consulting with lawyers on whether there is room to launch a challenge in the courts.
We needed some sort of clarity, and that’s exactly what we’ve got, even if not everyone is in agreement with the answers. YouView will happen, but if it is delayed while its composition is considered, the UK multichannel television sector will get by just fine without it.
In simple competition terms is Ofcom saying that had the decision to bar Project Kangaroo been its alone then would the VOD portal have been allowed to proceed? YouView will do a lot more than was envisaged by Kangaroo, but all of its partners sit around the YouView table, and it will enable the viewer to seamlessly enjoy catch-up television from the big five channels (along with anyone else who cares to join the party).
The most curious line from Ofcom is ‘IPTV is still an emerging sector, and the impact of YouView on the market will not be known with any confidence for some time’, which sort of says Ofcom may return to the subject. In the same way that BAA has been forced to sell some of its airports? It seems unlikely.
You could say that YouView arrived about two years too late, wouldn’t it have been better after all to launch at the same time as DVB-T2, so that the consumer doesn’t have yet another no subscription product to buy. Of course the chances are they won’t buy them, at least not until one of their existing boxes needs replacing, and with digital switchover moving a pace then the majority of televisions should have a digital set-top of some sort attached to them.
Mind you with 60.1 million DTT devices sold, and 18.7 million homes using DTT somewhere, maybe the expiry rate will help move things along!
From next spring the MHEG-IC (Interaction Channel) will be compulsory for any set-top box wanting DTG approval. We already know than manufacturers including ADB, Fetch TV and Humax offer the iPlayer to purchasers of their set-top and as things stand these and other devices will have about 12 months headstart on YouView.
There is another blot on the landscape for YouView, were a UK operator to launch a gateway system akin to UPC’s Horizon, then the ease at which set-top boxes could be added around the house would be eased considerably. But YouView and the increasing number of ‘YouView’ lite systems can also put pay-TV into back bedrooms and kitchens via over-the-top, as can assorted games consoles and mobile devices, and the BBC iPlayer is on many of them.