YouView has put its launch back by around eight months, but the hybrid world refuses to stand still, writes Julian Clover.
As YouView bows to the inevitable and announced a delay in its launch timetable, the hybrid television project must be hoping that it is not just its EPG that is capable of going back in time.
There were multiple layers to Wednesday’s “update on launch timings” that effectively said the project would be delayed until early 2012, though with a product in trial taking place before the end of the year, then those trials might otherwise have been expected to take place around now if the organisation had stuck to its previous schedule.
Not without reason did YouView say that it will allow any manufacturer to build a device using its underling technologies to do so with or without the YouView brand. We may well see a brief flurry of YouView-lite products appearing on the High Street ahead of the launch itself.
In many ways we’re already there – Humax this week added to the list of manufacturers with a version of the BBC iPlayer made available as part of a Freeview HD receiver – entertainingly ANT’s Galio platform uses strong elements of the Franco-German HbbTV. But, as mentioned last week, waiting in the wings is the MHEG Interaction Channel that will hopefully standardise button rouge.
All this gives YouView an additional challenge, as although MHEG is a part of the technology mix, it has to explain that its platform is so much better than all the others in the marketplace. BT and Talk Talk may be able to subisidse the cost of a YouView box for their broadband customers, but that won’t be happening in John Lewis, where YouView will be sitting alongside these other boxes the differences to which may not be entirely apparent.
I don’t agree with the school of thought that says just because YouView is launching later it will do so with older technologies. Indeed the wait may allow updates that provides the differentiation it needs.
But waiting costs money and shareholders that also include Arqiva, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the BBC will now be asking themselves whether they will need to put in further investment. For the BBC it is a dangerous road to take. With questions already being asked about the corporation using public funds for a distribution platform – it did once own the transmitter on the hill – the National Audit Office might be paying a call as has been the case for the move of some BBC activities to Manchester.
So as YouView heads for 2012, the time to start worrying will be when the Olympic Games is no longer used in examples of the platform’s capability.