Internet-based TV service ready for unveiling at last

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The Independent Online

YouView, the long-awaited internet-based television service which is intended to be the next generation of Freeview, will finally be launched by Lord Sugar next week.

The Amstrad founder and presenter of The Apprentice was appointed to the YouView board last year with instructions to "cure or kill" the service, which was originally scheduled to come to market in 2010.

But Marc Watson, the chief executive of BT Vision, which along with the BBC and ITV is a key partner in the project, said he believed YouView could survive its teething problems to challenge rival platforms such as BSkyB and Virgin Media.

"A couple of years ago if you had said to me that you won't be in the market in June 2012, I would have said that might be a problem," he said. "But when you look at the consumer marketplace, I don't think things have moved on as fast as we feared and the opportunity for a mass-market next-generation TV service using the power of broadband is actually as strong today as it ever was.

"If we get the launch right and the marketing right, there's still a great opportunity to achieve scale pretty quickly for this service." Mr Watson estimates that YouView, which includes Channel 4 and Channel 5, TalkTalk and Arqiva among its partners, will launch with a searchable library of about 20,000 programmes.

But the platform will launch next Wednesday without the breadth of channels and applications from new providers previously anticipated, and content will initially be provided by established broadcasters.

Mr Watson said: "At launch it will be the big ones and, you know what, that's enough to get this thing going." BT will launch a series of pay TV channels later this year and recently secured rights to show Premier League football from the 2013-14 season onwards.

YouView was first known as Project Canvas and was expected to launch in 2010. It is now expected to be available to consumers from September.