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YouView delay gives rivals more time to grab market share

One of the problems of nationally owned Institutions like the UK’s BBC is that everything takes so long


Published: 10 February, 2011


One of the problems of nationally owned Institutions like the UK’s BBC is that everything takes so long. We first heard about the service which eventually became the iPlayer in rumors during 2003/4, and the service came into being in 2005 after flirting with P2P delivery and opting for a more traditional streaming delivery.

Project Canvas, a specialized set top for it and for other similar copycat services from pay TV and broadcasters, was mooted in 2008 and has still to arrive. This week it dropped back another 6 months, with virtually no explanation.

The Project, since named YouView, was supposed to have products in the market in 2010, and that was put off until mid-2011, and the new statement on its web site puts that back to 2012. There is little confidence that it will make that deadline, but at some stage it may arrive.

We have been immensely critical of the government funded and controlled BBC being allowed to create YouView which has then sucked in all free to air TV channels, so that there is a cohesive publishing format and framework for them collectively, which will put at a disadvantage any online effort from pay TV rivals Sky and Virgin, and force them to come on board with the platform if they don’t want to risk missing out on OTT programming. Pure internet enterprises are therefore shut out of the next generation OTT publishing format unless they stump up the fee to put themselves on YouView, making it a “de facto” internet video option for the UK.

This is something that IBM was always famous for, launching what are described as “paper” products, spoilers that prevent the whole market from developing by promising a single unified, cheap platform, and then offer delay after delay. Already outside the UK in the rest of Europe, because the broadcasters there have had a completely different approach to how much control this needs, they have adopted the far simpler HbbTV as a standard, which allows set tops to be built and services offered, irrespective of how the programming looks. Even that may prevent many smaller internet operations from joining, and it is still virtually a broadcasters only club.

All of this means that Over The Top video experiences in Europe cannot find an easy route to the TV set. In the US Google TV is specifically at odds with this process offering an open route for anyone to bring content not just to a PC but to a TV set. There are other platforms which are more prescriptive in the US too, such as Apple TV, Roku and Netflix, but these latter two are services which can port to multiple platforms, and getting on these services is a decision for the companies offering them, not an open environment which offer any old TV program maker a route to market.

In Europe the set tops makers don’t want to back anyone other than the local broadcasters which led to the DVB-T set top bonanza, and so wait for standardization, mass appeal and economies of scale, which puts OTT on hold for another year.

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