Sky Joins the Fight Against Youview - Joins Virgin Media, IP Vision, Six TV, United For Local Television and the Open Source Consortium

written by: Richard Kastelein

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It's the battle of broadcasters in the UK – and the field is being prepared for the future of Interactive Television in the UK in terms of format.

According to Broadcast Now in the UK, Sky has lodged an official complaint with Ofcom on YouView yesterday. They join Virgin Media, IP Vision, Six TV, United For Local Television and the Open Source Consortium in protesting the new platform, delaying the final report from Ofcom by a week, according to reports.

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And YouView chief executive, Richard Halton. is clearly not happy:

"While we welcome justifiable scrutiny, the timing of this submission is clearly designed to extend the regulatory process in pursuit of commercial self-interest rather than the public interest", he told the Guardian.

"We remain committed to creating a viable, subscription-free alternative to meet consumer needs and stimulate the market. YouView will create competition among TV platforms and increase the range and number of opportunities for content providers and device manufacturers."

Like the others who have lodged complaints against Youview in the UK, Sky says that YouView will stifle competition in the on-demand market. However, BSkyB is going to offer free Anytime+ (their own Internet delivered on demand service) before the end of the year which will be free to those with Sky and Sky BB.

Youview, formely known as Project Canvas is controlled by the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Channel 5, British Telecom, Arqiva and TalkTalk - and it's function is to standardise VOD delivery over broadband for connected TV's as well as bring new content and services options via an applications structure.

YouView says it will be highly internet-centric and will use HTML4 and 5, Flash and other web technologies to power TV and app functions but unlike Google TV, there will be no web browser viewers can use to browse the open web.

My take on this is – why on earth a slice of the broadcast sector and UK taxpayers (via funds invested by the government) are slated to spend £115.6m on Youview, including development, launch, and to the end of the first four years it is running – is beyond me. Not to mention they are battling half of their own broadcasting community, they also picked a name that could see them getting sued by Google (Youtube) and having to change it again – from Project Canvas to Youview to something else again...

The French and the Germans have been working on HbbTV for years, it's ready, it's working, it's fully Open Source – therefore free, and it's a European standard that has five times the supporters and partners as Youview.

The HbbTV consortium is a pan-European initiative aimed at providing an alternative to proprietary technologies and delivering an open platform for broadcasters to deliver value added on‐demand services to the end consumer.

The founding members of the HbbTV consortium consists of both television broadcasters and CE companies, meaning that there is a common goal of creating services that broadcasters wish to offer while meeting the capabilities of today's CE devices. The HbbTV steering group members are: ANT Software Limited, EBU (European Broadcasting Union), France Televisions, Institut für Rundfunktechnik GmbH, OpenTV Inc, Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V Inc., Samsung, SES ASTRA S.A, Sony Corporation, and Television Francaise 1 - TF1.

The consortium is open for new members and seeks wide participation in order to foster the market introduction and continued developments.

HbbTV has a wide range of supporters from across the broadcaster and CE industries, details of which can be found here.

Though I doubt Ofcom will halt the project due to being anti-competitive, it might not be a bad thing – then the UK could join HbbTV and the rest of Europe with a single platform – therefore increasing the likelihood of building a global one – which we all hope for eventually.

Leading Korean set top box manufacturers such as INTEK Digital, Opentech Inc and Humax (one of the world's largest manufacturers of digital set-top boxes) are partnered with HbbTV for instance. It's already creeping into Asia via the Korean peninsula and perhaps has legs to become a global standard. Having said that, NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, has its own hybrid broadcast broadband called ‘Hybridcast’.

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