By Olivier Wolf, Partner at Greenwich Consulting, the international media and telecoms consultancy.
Ask anybody on the street what YouView is, and you will almost certainly be met with a blank look. Penned for a summer launch, TalkTalk let slip last month that YouView, the elusive and well overdue internet connected set-top box, will ‘definitely launch this September.’ Now two years behind schedule, this TV service was once dubbed the next generation Freeview, backed by a wealth of heavy hitting industry players including the BBC, BT and indeed TalkTalk. But as connected TVs gain popularity the market and a variety of over-the-top services like Netflix, Lovefilm and the imminent NowTV from Sky battle it out for a share of consumer consciousness, is it too little too late for YouView?
YouView holds a lot of promise, despite the repeated delays, yet in some circles, YouView is seen as having ‘missed its window.’ Since its inception as Project Canvas, it has been met with a series of delays, owing mostly to technical and regulatory issues and a lengthy approval process. Currently, YouView is being trialled in 2,000 homes across the UK, though the duration of these trials is as yet unknown. Had this launched in 2010 as it was supposed to, most homes in the UK would now be using YouView to stream and select content. In 2012 on the other hand, YouView is launching to a very different market, in which consumers already subscribe to various OTT services, and following the digital switch over, will all have swapped to Freeview boxes. Getting them to buy into a whole new service will be no mean-feat.
Herein lies the first huge challenge for YouView – building awareness of a whole new service ahead of its wider launch penned for later this year. Lord Sugar, who is heavily involved in the project, famously fired the entire marketing and press team last Autumn. Building a new brand is a tough challenge. This will need to be done extremely well to ensure customers understand the value proposition and spend a 3 digit figure for a set-top box.
Secondly, OTT services like Netflix are quickly gaining a hold in the consumer market, while Freeview recently announced Freeview+ to allow users to catch up on previous shows that they may have missed. Similarly, its Freeview SmartTV service now allows users to access Lovefilm, YouTube and BBC iPlayer through a Freeview HD recorder. As such, what exactly will YouView offer a consumer that is sparklingly new?
Its main selling point is that it is a one stop shop for TV – and in a world where services are increasingly fragmented, this can only be a good thing. Similarly, those involved are incredibly powerful bodies: BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, TalkTalk, BT and Arqiva. It is hard to imagine that with such powerful participants YouView could be anything less than a success, but perhaps because of the might of the broadcasters, expectations are just as high.
Connected TV sales are rapidly rising, and according to IMIS research, by 2016 70% of new TVs will be internet-connected. Similarly, with an increase in games consoles such as Wii and X-Box enabling consumers to connect to IPTV services like BBC iPlayer and Netflix, these services are gaining in popularity, even if consumers don’t realise the significance quite yet. Will there be room for YouView in this? With every home in the UK now accessing the television digitally, the offer will have to be compelling to convince people to upgrade from Freeview boxes.
That is not to say that YouView is doomed to failure. The idea of a one-off payment which would enable content to be streamed anytime, on top of an existing TV service is no doubt attractive to some users – just look at the success of Freeview. YouView goes one step further.