YouView will bring IP delivered channels and content from the major US studios, chairman Kip Meek has told the Broadcasting Press Guild. Giving the clearest outline to date of the hybrid venture’s plans, Meek also said there had been talks with BSkyB over the possibility of content from the satcaster being made available on the platform.
“YouView is not intended to be internet on the television, it is enriched television,” Meek told the assembled media journalists. “It and Google TV operate in different parts of the marketplace, so YouView will have a familial resemblance to the television we all know and love, but be a step forward.”
Meek, a former Ofcom board member and founder of Spectrum Strategy Consulting, said that in addition to DTT channels, YouView would progressively offer IP-delivered content, both on demand and linear, and a seven-day catch-up service based on the ‘backwards and forwards’ EPG that Meek said would be one of the platform’s drivers. On demand content would also come from shareholders BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, plus applications to add additional capability. There would be a built-in browser, but no direct access to the internet. “It is a service that is designed to be free, but it doesn’t mean that every aspect will be free, but there is no monthly rental and that makes it very different from some of the other connected TV services.” He also highlighted the potential role YouView could play in local television, a subject of interest to the coalition government, and mixed messages towards YouView coming from potential operators.
A major technology project, Meek said YouView was far more complicated than the iPlayer and required relationships with equipment manufacturers to be developed and them to deliver. “This is a race, there is considerable pressure on the team at White City and anxiety all the way round the shareholders. We are making steady progress knocking off a whole series of technical challenges.” He named Technicolor, Humax, Cisco, Pace, Intel and STMicroelectronics as potential suppliers when the first devices appear in the middle of 2011.
Tackling ongoing criticism from Sky and Virgin following Ofcom’s decision not to launch an enquiry into the venture, the former regulator said it would be unusual for Ofcom to identify that it was anti-competitive at such an early stage. “It is completely wrong to characterise YouView as anti-competitive, it is competitive, it has competitive consequences, but it is competitive”. Meek explained that in his view YouView would create competition among consumer electronics manufacturers and at the content level, opening up opportunities for IP-based channels that would have a much lower cost of entry.
Meek confirmed early stage discussions had taken place with US studios – many VOD contracts are non-exclusive suggesting some might make an early decision – and that chief executive Richard Halton had held direct talks with BSkyB. However, there would be no entry from Sky into YouView’s shareholder structure.
In an investor call last week, BSkyB CEO Jeremy Darroch left the door open for a possible involvement in YouView, potentially as a retailer of its own content. “It could potentially be an opportunity in terms of adding our own content, but we’ll have to see,” he said.