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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

You're fired!

(and I'm hired).

Lord Sugar has been announced today as the man in charge of saving Youview. It is the new generation of Freeview, which is backed by BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT, Talk Talk and Arqiva. The intention of these organisations is to create a set top box that can rival Sky's all-conquering HD box. It will be a one-off purchase charge (no monthly subscription fees) pricing model, similar to existing freeview. There will be oodles more services though, that will allow users to series link, pause, record etc on a hard drive as per Sky's system. It will also allow users to access 4od, iplayer and other on demand services through their televisions as well as other internet sites. This is a prime example of technological convergence, previously separate technologies coming together in a single device that performs several functions.

The project has been hit by a series of delays, largely due to the technical challenge of creating a single box that carries out so many different functions (and also by the various stakeholders arguing about which of those functions should be retained and which sacrificed in order to speed up its development). Youview was originally due to be launched at the end of 2010, but that date has since been rescheduled a couple of times and it's now due out in the spring of 2012. Many commentators are saying that if it is put back any further and they miss the 2012 Olympics, they might as well not bother. 

Summer 2012 represents a one-off golden opportunity for British retailers of TVs and set top boxes. There is likely to be a massive spike in sales, as Olympic fever grips the nation and sports fans upgrade their hardware in preparation for marathon (forgive me) viewing sessions of shooting, cycling, sailing and anything else Britain has a chance of winning a medal in. If Youview isn't in the shops in time to receive that massive (anticipated) sales boost then it could be dead in the water. Punters that have upgraded for the Olympics will not be looking to to do so again in the near future, so sales figures across the market are likely to be sluggish for a period. Sky will have added another X million subscribers to its list of long term contracts. But worse still, the technology, which is causing all of the delays will probably have become obsolete, by the time the box does eventually hit the High Street.

Here are some links to a few newspaper articles which discuss Lord Sugar's appointment and give some of the background behind Youview (formerly known as Project Canvas). There is also a link to a very interesting radio debate that discusses Youview, the place that it may fill in the British broadcasting landscape, and the potential consequences of it not being launched in time for the Olympics. It's an episode of The Media Show, which is on Radio 4 @ 13:30 every Wednesday and then available as podcasts here

The Media Show - Youview

Article from The Daily Telegraph

Article for The Independent

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