YouView, the planned platform that promises “to change the way you watch TV forever,” seems to be taking forever to develop. Conceived in 2008, the launch has been pushed back by as much as six months, according to one report. The joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel Four, Five, BT, Talk Talk and Arqiva faces technical challenges that mean the launch may be delayed from the summer to the end of the year, or possibly not until 2012. That would be a further setback for the project, which has had a troubled past and drawn considerable criticism from platforms with which it would compete.
A report in the Daily Mail which refers to “well-placed sources” refers to “a number of technical problems and rumoured discord between the partners”. Other unnamed sources said the consortium had underestimated the technical barriers and had set itself an overoptimistic deadline. This is consistent with other reports that informitv has received.
A representative of YouView said its “aspiration” remained to launch in the summer, but that the timetable was “under review”.
Back in October, Kip Meeks, the chairman of YouView, conceded that a slip in the schedule was possible, pointing out that a launch data had not been announced. The YouView web site still says “all being well it’ll be in the first half of 2011”.
In November, the consortium announced the appointment of an advertising agency responsible for “the brand launch and rollout of YouView across all media and channels by the middle of 2011”.
Then in December YouView replaced its high-profile chief technology officer Anthony Rose with a consultant from Accenture, which is advising ITV, and brought in a director of operations from BT.
The participation of the BBC in the project is conditional on publication of the final core technical specification being published “no later than eight months before the launch of the first set-top boxes”. The only documents that have been published to date amount to little more than a list of functional requirements. The most recent document, Consumer Device Requirements — Draft A is dated 1 September and was not released until after the closing date for expressions of interest from manufacturers to develop products.
The YouView project is also dependent on the completion of the Connected TV specification by the Digital TV Group as part of D-Book 7. This was due to be completed in December but has yet to be published, although the Connected TV specification has been circulated to DTG members. This is expected to form the foundation on which YouView could be based but will be an open standard on which manufacturers will be able to differentiate their devices and displays.
Meanwhile, most major consumer electronics manufacturers are moving ahead with the release of their own connected television products. The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw companies like Samsung demonstrating their latest line in Smart TV screens.
Since the BBC first proposed the development of an industry standard for connected television in October 2008 with the codename Project Canvas, the market has moved on and further fragmented.
If and when it eventually launches, YouView, as it now known, will be just one of many hybrid services that aim to combine broadcast television and broadband video.
The BBC is now proposing that its public service television programmes should only be available on demand through a generic BBC iPlayer application, meaning that YouView will have little advantage over other connected television products when it comes to catch up programming from the BBC.