Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

YouView is coming – slowly

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast May 03, 2012

But not everyone’s prepared to wait patiently, says Kate Bulkley.

If you can bear to wrench yourself away from the Leveson Inquiry for a few moments, this just in from the folks planning to launch YouView… well not much actually.

Saying nothing has been the policy for months, put in place last year when Lord Sugar took over as chairman and chief kick-’em-into-action honcho.

The man who wins broadcasting awards for firing people on telly decided that getting the next-generation set-top box up and running should take priority over everything else, including talking to almost anyone outside of the shareholder circle.

In the self-created vacuum, there have been a lot of column inches around missed launch dates, fighting shareholders and dodgy technology.

And in the meantime, Freeview, Samsung and some others seem to be adding features that are very YouView-like, faster than you can say “backwards EPG”.

On the face of it, a backwards EPG doesn’t sound very sexy but it’s the next-generation TV equivalent of being the cool kid in class. It is (was?) one of YouView’s killer apps but, thanks to the delay, others are now adding it as standard.

I am told that YouView now has a box, supplied this week by Humax (which took over as lead box creator from Technicolor) and that this is the box that will be tested for a couple of weeks and then go into trials to “hundreds of thousands of homes”, likely to be ones under the control of YouView shareholders BT and TalkTalk.

To all intents and purposes, YouView will then be “launched”. The question then is: how long will it take to become a realistic option, scaleable for a wide range of consumers?

There are issues of how it will be marketed, its price, and if it is easy enough and cool enough for people to ‘get it’ and use it. These are all important questions, and I suspect all the Olympic medals will have been handed out before YouView achieves anything resembling scale.

Apparently, once the tech is tested, getting it into the sales channels is “not difficult”, but the next target YouView needs to hit is the Christmas selling period.

Here’s another thing: even committed YouView shareholder Channel 4 is looking beyond YouView for its next big thing.

On 27 April, it sent out a request for TV apps that can be “more engaging and televisual than those currently available”. The kicker is that C4 is “particularly interested” in prototypes for the Samsung Smart TV and for Virgin Media’s Tivo platforms.

There is no mention of YouView in the entire six-page document.

The reasoning is obvious: C4 is moving ahead, hedging its bets and gathering ideas on how to integrate gesture and voice control into its TV apps because waiting for YouView is a bit like waiting for Godot.

In the meantime, the TV apps race is well and truly on. Be it a VoD catch-up app such as BBC iPlayer, a social app such as Zeebox or a digital extension app such as the “mole mapper” app for C4’s latest series of Embarrassing Bodies, there is no question that the app appetite is growing – with or without YouView.

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