YouView boxes will be in stores by the end of the month with supplies from the manufacturer Humax priced at £299.
The terrestrial PVR is likely to be followed by a zapper box and later an IDTV. Sky’s Now TV venture and the Scottish commercial broadcaster STV will both make content available at launch.
At a press briefing at County Hall in London, YouView chairman Alan Sugar and managing director Richard Halton guided the press through the £70 million project, watched over by senior staff from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk, who are backing the broadband venture.
In addition to the retail sales at the end of July, BT and TalkTalk will later put forward their own customer offers.
A relaunched consumer website will give details of stores that will stock the product, including John Lewis, Argos, Amazon and the independent sector.
Lord Sugar described the set as a great moment in British television. “It’s not like producing a Sky box, we had to start from scratch, a bit like the first television transmission.” Lord Sugar, who launched Sky Television’s analogue product for Amstrad, said it was his ambition to replace both Freeview and other PVR products.
The Apprentice judge said there was no reason that other manufacturers might not join Humax in producing both retail and ISP boxes – Cisco and Techicolor who expressed an interest early in the project subsequently pulled out, though it is believed Pace remains in the frame.
“When we start to add other features such as IP channels we have to see how a stripped down version of the box performs, because the PVR is doing a lot of other work than just recording programmes, such as buffering,” said Lord Sugar.
Sources close to the project told Broadband TV News said the software had been locked down last week and that a ‘Final’ version of the software would be downloaded to the 2,000 triallists tomorrow.
YouView managing director Richard Halton said the majority of the functions could be accessed by using the Up, Down, Left and Right buttons. “For anyone used to using a PVR boxes the functions will be very familiar, but YouView is there to give a better basic TV experience. The thing that makes it different from what is out there today is that not only can you go forward in time, but with one button press you can go backwards.”
In two button presses Halton was into the precise programme on the BBC iPlayer from the Monday night schedule. From within the iPlayer, Halton was able to search for the latest episode of Emmerdale, an ITV programme. The same search also found a recent episode of Family Fortunes featuring Emmerdale cast members, a BBC radio documentary on the soap, and a collection of recent episodes.
The PVR section enhances programme information with its own metadata pulled from the Internet. “From the customers perspective they don’t need to know its coming from the Internet, it’s just one seamless experience.”
The box itself, the Humax DTR-T1000 also acts as a digital TV recorder, with the ability to pause and rewind live TV and offering a range of features that allow the viewer to capture and store their favourite shows through series recording, split recording, green button trailer booking and smart recording to resolve clashes. You can record up to two channels at the same time while watching other content, and store up to 300 hours of standard definition and 125 hours of high definition programmes on the 500GB hard drive.
BT and TalkTalk customers will have additional content that can be accessed when the customer buys a retail box and links it too their broadband.
TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding said the ISP would set put its proposition at an investor meeting on July 26.