The internet revolution will be televised: broadcasters unveil their plans for future

If you wanted to name a landmark new internet television service that combined the content of Freeview with the online accessibility of YouTube, what would you call it, if not FreeTube?

And so was born YouView, the long-anticipated online television offering from Britain's public service broadcasters – the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – that will enable viewers to watch catch-up services, such as the BBC's iPlayer, on their television sets. The brand was launched with the bold claim: "YouView will change the way you watch TV forever."

From next year, the public will be able to buy YouView set-top boxes, which will enable them to access subscription-free digital channels, the previous week's shows and a range of on-demand services and interactive extras. YouView is the result of Project Canvas, which the broadcasters have been working on with partners BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva.

The chief executive of YouView, Richard Halton, predicted that the initiative would transform habits in British living rooms. "We are creating an exciting consumer brand which will stand for a better TV experience for UK homes. Connected TV creates all kinds of creative possibilities, for existing networks as well as local services and new developers of interactive applications. It all adds up to great news for TV audiences."

YouView, which expects to launch early next year, will feature a programme guide that goes backwards as well as forwards. This will enable viewers to access programmes shown in the previous week by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, which already have on-demand services.

The service represents serious competition for the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, whose Sky+ service – which enables viewers to pause live programmes and record entire series at the push of a button – has been an important driver of subscription sales.

The YouView set-top boxes will contain similar features. YouView's chairman, Kip Meek, said: "YouView is key to ensuring that everyone in the UK benefits from next-generation TV and the UK has a competitive market. Viewers will get more choice whilst broadcasters and content providers both national and local will get a fantastic new means of finding audiences."

No price has yet been announced for the set-top boxes that will also allow viewers a search facility so that they can trace programmes by genre, interest or locality. An applications store will also give viewers access to new types of services and interactivity with programmes.

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