YouView’s Chairman, Lord Alan Sugar, appeared on ITV’s Daybreak this morning to show off YouView to the general public.
Like Freeview, the service is via a set top box, and following purchase the service is free. People will be able to access content from the last seven days from around 300 channels, and record shows and receive programme recommendations. Although the service will be transmitted over the internet, the idea is that people will experience it like traditional television.
At the inception of the You View project (originally conceived as ‘Project Canvas’) in December 2011, its joint-venture partners, which include the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, believed that the service would radically shake up the broadcasting landscape.
Unfortunately, the £115m project’s long and convoluted route to market dramatically undermines these hopes - from disagreements with BSkyB about how much the BBC would be able to control the project, to on running changes at the top, culminating in Lord Sugar’s inauguration as Chairman last March.
I remember writing back in 2009 that unless it came to market quickly, it would miss the boat. Originally scheduled for late 2010, then pushed back to summer 2011, then Spring 2012, now in beta-trials with 2,200 users and not planned to be fully up and running until the fourth quarter of this year, the boat has long departed.
The DVR element is important. A half of households own a DVR, and recent research shows DVR households generally prefer using their DVRs over video-on-demand because of the control over content they have, including not being restricted to seven day catch up. So why not just buy a DVR for under half the price of a YouView desk top box? Further, as DVR penetration has risen then so the market of people likely to buy a DVR has shrunk. If they haven’t bought one already, they are considerably less likely to buy one now, especially one that costs nearly £300.
The main proposition of course is ‘like iPlayer, only straight to TV’. Yet that space is getting smaller. Virgin Media has a fifth of all fixed line broadband households, and Sky has Anytime+. This leaves Freeview only homes, which currently stands at around a third of all households.
Many analysts and YouView believe that Freeview only homes will be YouView’s main market. But just who is this one third of households? Nearly half of them are aged over 55, which makes them much less likely than average to buy a YouView box. A quarter are aged under 35, yet two thirds of under 35s already watch VoD via their games devices. Even people with internet connected TVs (‘smart TVs’) are more likely to watch VoD via their games devices than they are via the apps on their TVs.
All of this isn’t to say YouView won’t shift some boxes. It will. But I doubt these will be sufficient to justify the significant amount of time and investment that has gone into the four year project.