Launch of the UK’s public-service connected-TV joint venture YouView is now delayed until at least early 2012, the consortium says.
The service was planned to be included on retail set-top boxes this summer, but the project has leaked word of delay this year, with the Daily Mail, Telegraph and, most recently, Pocket-lint citing “technical problems and rumoured discord between the partners“.
The reason for the delay – apparently, because it involves a high degree of innovation and, in particular, the process of engaging with industry partners on the technicalities of implementation. YouView is close to finally unveiling its product spec, suggesting that – after rounds of secret negotiations with industry peers – everyone has virtually settled on a spec under a delayed timetable.
YouView, the former “Project Canvas”, was instigated by the BBC to popularise VOD and internet TV services in non-pay-TV homes. It’s jointly owned by the BBC, ITV (LSE: ITV), Channel 4, Five, BT (NYSE: BT), TalkTalk and Arqiva and would effectively augment the Freeview digital terrestrial platform, on STBs and, later, TVs. It’s one of the world’s most ambitious IPTV initiatives.
The delay is a setback because, by the time YouView launches, alternative methods for providing the same services will already be shipping with TVs. Manufacturers like Samsung and Sony (NYSE: SNE) are already bundling such services with their sets. If these platforms become popular, it could undermine the BBC’s original rationale that someone needs to take the IPTV bull by the horns and harmonise its proliferating delivery channels.
YouView says it “will have a product in trial by the end of this year, with a full consumer launch planned in early 2012″.
This doesn’t mean that YouView won’t become the UK’s default connected-TV platform, as was pre-destined. As upgrade churn takes hold of TV sets after that time, YouView will naturally find its way in to homes regardless, assuming it gets hardware manufacturers’ buy-in. But the delay should give other commercial operators (who, in some cases, are the same hardware makers YouView is courting) a longer headstart with their own offerings.
When we asked YouView about the “delay” reports two weeks ago, it told us: “Development is progressing well and our shareholders are fully supportive of our strategy for delivery. Our priority is to ensure we get the product right and we are keeping all timings under review. We will update further on timings once we have completed a review of our launch plans.”
YouView CTO Anthony Rose left the JV in 2010. One recent report said: “It just doesn’t work when you turn it on and keeps crashing.” But YouView told paidContent:UK: “These reports don’t reflect our latest developments.”