There has been a great deal of discussion recently about the merits, or otherwise, of Project Canvas, now known as YouView. In assessing its value, the litmus test surely has to be “Will YouView benefit consumers who want to watch internet video on their TV?” Clearly it will, suggests Michael Comish, the chief executive of online video company blinkbox, in a personal opinion piece for informitv.
“YouView promises to create an open, standardised platform where consumers will be able to view programming from a vast number of video providers across a broad range of devices. Viewers will be able to access catch-up television programmes, American television series, blockbuster movies and a host of great programming from the internet on their television sets. This will effectively bring to life domestic televisions with hundreds of great ‘video apps’ (comparable to iPhone apps) in addition to regular channels.
The characteristics of being open and standardised are key for consumers.
An open, not-for-profit, platform like YouView ensures that viewers gain access to the largest selection of programmes at the lowest price. As YouView will be subscription-free, it means the consumer doesn’t have to go through someone else’s pay wall to find programming. To put it more simply, and here lays the truth behind the objections from a few commercial parties, viewers can watch shows without having to be locked into a 12 month contract with a cable or satellite provider.
It also means that the end price for consumers, when they buy or rent programmes, is lower. As a streaming service for Hollywood movies and television shows, blinkbox relies on micropayments for revenue, and from a £1.99 movie rental, we operate on tight margins. When we offer consumers programming through a service like YouView, we can lower our prices because do not have to share revenues with the platform.
For programme providers and users alike, YouView will provide a range of benefits from a common standard for internet video on televisions. As consumers, we all appreciate the ease of use of a common standard and the annoyance of waiting for a standard to emerge. YouView is not only helping to establish the standard, but is fast forwarding a process which would otherwise take far longer. A common standard also lowers the prices consumers pay. Service providers are not burdened with having to supply different formats for every television or set-top box combination, driving down costs and lowering prices to viewers.
Common standards also help foster innovation and creativity and the service will encourage companies to develop apps in much the way that the iPhone has fostered a huge growth in externally-created applications.
YouView has not done a perfect job to date. Better communication with potential partners earlier on would have helped make people aware of the benefits and be less prone to develop suspicions that naturally emerge in an information vacuum. People need to be shown the benefits more clearly and partners need to be kept abreast of developments as and when they are finalised. However, the YouView team has been working much harder on these points recently.
Freeview was successful because it offered users an attractive, subscription-free alternative to pay-TV, backed up by an educational and brand-building programme to make customers aware of the benefits. YouView will do much the same and as a result consumers will benefit most.”
Michael Comish is the co-founder and chief executive of online video aggregator blinkbox. He was previously managing director at the services division of Channel 4, one of the partners in YouView. Prior to that he was co-founder of AtomFilms.