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BT plans to use YouView just for marketing, with no OTT in sight

While we have all mimicked the fact that British Telecom is involved with YouView the UK, broadcast catch-up service which targets a new hybrid IP/Bro

By PETER WHITE

Published: 28 April, 2011

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While we have all mimicked the fact that British Telecom is involved with YouView the UK, broadcast catch-up service which targets a new hybrid IP/Broadcast set top – very few have stopped to ask why? Or what for?

BT launched BT Vision, its own IP delivered VoD service attached to a broadcast DVB-T set top back in 2006. So far the predictions of 3 million customers in a few years have fallen so far from true, that the project was lucky to escape the chop a few years ago. Now it has around 545,000 homes (latest quarterly figure) signed for the service, and it’s rather like getting into the sea on a cold day – you get in too far to get out, but you doesn’t fancy going the rest of the way in.

YouView is the answer, BT Vision feels, a service that everyone will take for free, and BT Vision will sit there, as a paid service, advertising itself to all the millions that may take YouView. It can then be signed up for over YouView. All this is revealed in an interview published in Videonet this week with BT Executive Steve White, Head of Information Systems for IPTV.

We wonder if White has thought through the fact that BSkyB and Virgin, will also be on YouView and the two largest pay TV operators in the UK, one with over 10 million subscribers and another with 3.8 million, might find that it’s a great place to capture pay TV customers – from BT Vision. Both companies have complained bitterly that UK broadcasters could band together like this to create a catch up club, over the internet, which is purely for broadcasters, and the only way to put YouView through, was to make it open to Sky and Virgin.

So far the only reason that BT Vision has had its best quarter ever, with 40,000 sign up, was because the Office of Fair Trading in the UK forced Sky to offer its sports and movie channels at a reasonable wholesale price, and BT Vision couldn’t wait to take it up on the offer.

With the exception of Italy, where cable never got a foothold and satellite TV is only recently arrived, nowhere else in Europe has had a strong experience using DVB-T broadcasting on a paid for basis. There has been Boxer in Sweden and throughout Scandinavia, and Digitenne in the Netherlands, but neither of these, nor other experiments in Spain and some of the Central European countries, have reached beyond 1 million customers. In Italy pay TV on DVB-T has reached 3.3 million. So if a paid service doesn’t work in a broadcast hybrid, why would it work in hybrid with an internet delivered service? And why would it work any better in YouView? It seems a tenuous idea to base spending a fortune on joining and supporting YouView, just to use it as a marketing channel.

Videonet reveals that YouView customers will only be allowed to get BT Vision if they are on a BT line, so it can hardly expect to gain Virgin customers which will usually be on a Virgin DOCSIS line. Sky broadband customers either use unbundled Sky broadband lines or wholesaled BT lines, so it could snag one or two of those – ironically using Sky’s own channels as bait.

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