Youview You Blew It?

written by: Richard Kastelein

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According to a quote in the FT, Youview might miss the Olympics:

“It has missed the whole point – to have it up and running for the Olympics,” says Ian Maude, an analyst at Enders. “It has been stuck in bureaucratic treacle. They have a lot of shareholders of differing interests to please, and the net result is that everything has taken a lot longer than anyone originally predicted.”

Could this mean that the ambitious project, funded to the tune of £115m — backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, TalkTalk, BT, Talk Talk and Arqiva, and rejected by Sky, Virgin Media, IP Vision, Six TV, United For Local Television and the Open Source Consortium — will leave the UK with a Red Button only Olympics?

I have been following Youview through its various iterations - first Project Kangaroo then Project Canvas prior... and this it seems to have been a long torturous journey since 2010. Claim of delays have always been set to technical issues, but insiders say it’s the stakeholders bickering that’s the real problem.

Perhaps it all would have been easier if the UK broadcast community joined up with the Europeans and the HbbTV Open Source movement which has enormous support. Funny enough, the UK ‘s Freesat next generation receivers, are packing HbbTV – and one assumes they are tired of waiting for Youview. But they are alone in the UK to adopt the EBU standard.

A hybrid protocol HbbTV is now becoming the de facto standard on the continent for broadcasters, is fully supported by the European Broadcast Union, and is based on existing standards and web technologies including OIPF (Open IPTV Forum), CEA, DVB and W3C. HbbTV is the association of two projects born in February 2009, with the French H4TV project and the German HTML profil project.

As well as helping create more interactive TV for viewers,  the introduction of the HbbTV standard is of benefit to both equipment manufacturers and content providers who at the moment have to produce hardware or content specific to each country to meet the de facto standard in that country. The establishment of a unified European HbbTV standard means content owners and application developers can write once and deploy to many countries. Except the UK.

The long wait for Youview has stalled innovation for the UK creative sector in terms of interactive TV and it's going to be a game of catchup to the continent if Youview does not get off the ground soon. For Roland Garros last year in France there was some extraordinary uses of HbbTV, and they are quickly developing specs for second screen engagement.

HbbTV services are in regular operation in France, Germany and Spain, with announcements of adoption in Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Turkey, and trials in Poland, Australia, China, Japan, the Nordics, Ireland and the US.


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