What's happening at YouView, the UK's homegrown subscription-free IPTV play?
Eighteen months ago the hype around YouView was at fever pitch, reports Ian Grant.
As late as September 2010 it was confidently expected to launch in mid-2011. It didn't.
Then it missed Christmas 2011, and the launch was set for February 2012, and then May.
The marketing team was let go three months ago. That suggests there will be no launch while the UK gears up for the Olympics – a massive missed opportunity.
An October launch to catch the Christmas market seems the most likely.
But even that's not certain. A YouView spokesman, who doubles as TalkTalk's press officer, said there are a "few" Humax set-top boxes (STBs) out there.
The next couple of weeks will see several hundred in the field, and a trial involving thousands of STBs will start "in the next couple of months", he added.
However, YouView has still to finalise its user interface and features.
The YouView consortium consists of the BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5 as the main content providers, with BT, Arqiva and TalkTalk doing the signal distribution.
BT already has a broadband video product, BT Vision, while TalkTalk's CEO Dido Harding said recently its own "television proposition" is imminent.
Both the BBC and BT referred questions to YouView.
Pace, the STB maker who is said to be working with BT, confirmed that it is still a member of the consortium, but declined to say more.
The YouView spokesman said talks with content holders and retailers were on-going, but declined to say who is involved.
More would be revealed once the "rate card", the list of channels, was finalised, he said.
As they procrastinate, the market is looking increasingly saturated. Virgin Media and Sky have consolidated their online offerings.
Sky reported last year 2.8 million of its 10.2 million subscribers were on a triple play tariff (TV, broadband and phone), up 37 percent on 2010.
Virgin had a total of 4.8 million customers, of which 4.1 million were on cable broadband (28 percent taking more than 20Mbps packages) and 3.7 million took its TV service. The number of TiVo users more than doubled to 435,000.
About 18 months ago BT and the BBC agreed to add the BBC's "catch-up TV" product, iPlayer, to BT Vision, and in a single fortnight this year BT Vision signed up four linear content providers - FX, Gold, Watch and Alibi.
In its Q3 2012 report, BT said it added 39,000 Vision customers, bringing its total to around 680,000.
STB maker Technicolor, which helped develop the core technical specification for the YouView STB, broke away in March last year, leaving Humax, Huawei, Pace, Manhattan, Vestel and Cisco still in the frame.
Since then, Technicolor has launched a new service platform named MediaNavi, which aims to simplify and enhance the media consumption experience, whilst aggregating operator, web and each customer's personal media.
MediaNavi will run as an application for tablets and smartphones that support Android, WebOS, Windows7, MeeGo and iOS.
In January 2011 Technicolor announced a partnership with TalkTalk to trial MediaNavi on tablets as a personalised and enriched second screen video experience, adding the two are collaborating on the integration of MediaNavi into TalkTalk’s set-top-boxes.
Moreover the technology underpinning YouView is different to that HbbTV standard being pursued in Europe.
Where will it find markets outside the UK? As one source said, "We are looking at a rerun of Betamax versus VHS."
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