Delays risk making YouView ‘irrelevant’

YouView has missed its chance to become the dominant force in the IPTV market, according to industry experts, with claims its postponement to 2012 is “delaying itself into an irrelevance”.

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The £115m TV-on-demand venture between broadcasters the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, and ISPs BT and TalkTalk and Arqiva, has faced a catalogue of setbacks, leading many to question its place in the online TV market.

Last week, it postponed beta rollout by a further six months and stalled its full launch until 2012, citing technological reasons for its delay, given the scale and complexity of the project.

Meeting the needs of seven powerful and competitive shareholders is never going to be an easy task for YouView. But once it launches, it will have significant cross-platform marketing support.

However, given broadcasters have syndicated their on-demand players to so many other devices, they must ensure their marketing strategies prioritise YouView rather than their other outlets to give it the boost it’ll need.

It’s also important to note that although the industry’s patience is waning, consumers are still unaware of YouView’s existence and so are immune to the same disappointment.

Experts believe that in failing to launch sooner, YouView will hand advantage to competing services. By 2012 it will be entering a market saturated with connected devices, including TVs, games consoles and other IPTV services offering catch-up TV.

Oliver Newton, Starcom MediaVest’s head of emerging platforms, said YouView is “delaying itself into an irrelevance”. Not only are there plenty of devices that can already offer catch-up content, he explained, but users will have established viewing habits.

Likewise, Enders analyst Ian Maude said it must launch “in full” this year for it to have an impact.

Comparisons with the ill-fated Project Kangaroo, which was blocked by the Competition Commission, have also been made. SeeSaw parent Arqiva bought the technology but has failed to gain significant traction.

YouView’s open-platform format, which gives smaller content providers the opportunity to get into the free-to-air broadcast market, and its ability to bring web apps to the TV screen put it in a unique position.

Others suggest it’s not pay-TV platforms that pose the biggest threat to YouView’s take-up, but web-connected TVs and games consoles, such as the PS3 and Xbox.

All the partner broadcasters of YouView are on some, if not all, connected devices – ITV Player, 4oD and the BBC’s iPlayer are on the PS3 and Virgin Media, iPlayer is on the Wii and connected TVs, while rival service Sky Player is on Xbox. Demand 5 is also on Sony’s web-TVs. As such, YouView will enter a market where people are used to watching on a mix of IPTV devices and platforms.

Sky and Virgin Media have recently bolstered their services with Sky Anytime+ and TiVo. new media age understands Sky is in talks to launch Sky player on web-connected TVs, and is eyeing the PS3, having already launched on the Xbox.

YouView CEO Richard Halton admitted the delay is far from ideal but is confident there will be high demand for the service at its launch.

“The connected TV experience is currently very fragmented, as TV manufacturers pick and choose their content offerings,” he said. “People just want the reassurance that they can catch up with the programmes they love in one place, and YouView will let them without subscription.”

But YouView’s Halton stressed the delays will ensure the final product is strong and will achieve scale.

“There’s currently no other viable mass-market subscription-free TV platform being developed, and when you combine this with the benefit of a simple user experience and comprehensive content, YouView will bring a powerful proposition to millions of homes that are looking for an upgrade to Freeview,” he said.

YouView will also benefit from the marketing support of its seven powerful partners, which continue to back the project despite the setbacks.

An ITV spokeswoman said, “Our priority is to ensure that, when launched, YouView is the best product it can possibly be for both our viewers and our advertisers. This is a complex technology project and we’re fully committed to working closely with the venture and our partners to launch it successfully.”

This story first appeared on newmediaage.co.uk

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