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, 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 Sky and Virgin Media. “A couple of years ago if you had said to me that you won’t be in market in June 2012 I would have said that might be a problem. But when you look at the consumer market place I don’t think things have moved on as fast as we feared they might 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,” he said. “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, Talk Talk and Arqiva among its partners, will launch with a searchable library of around 20,000 programmes.
But the YouView platform will not launch next Wednesday with 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.”
He said the service, which is seen as primarily a “television experience” with easily navigable on-demand features, will not include an internet search engine.
BT’s own Pace box for YouView is not yet ready and the company is hoping customers will come to it through the Humax box, which is being offered at launch, and connect to the BT Vision service, which was this month given an improved user interface and added features.
BT will later this year launch a series of pay TV channels and recently secured rights to Premier League football from the 2013-2014 season onwards. “These are matches that people want to see and are prepared to pay to see. For the first time in history someone other than Sky has got some of the top games,” said Mr Watson, who noted that BT’s network of 4 million wi-fi hotspots would provide opportunities for innovative services to fans watching games on mobiles and tablets.
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