A new set-top box has been unveiled by Lord Alan Sugar today with the backing of the BBC, ITV, and Channels 4 and 5.
YouView is pitched as the successor to the Freeview technology. It will offer viewers 100 TV and radio channels, some in high definition, and will include “on-demand” content – meaning users can hunt through archives to find progammes.
The first YouView box was unveiled by Lord Sugar, the project’s non-executive chairman. It will be available to buy from retailers as a stand-alone box, but will also be offered to subscribers to BT and TalkTalk – who have joined the terrestrial broadcasers in backing the project.
The YouView box announced today will cost £299, meaning it will face stiff competition from a marketplace already full of hardware offering TV and radio to consumers.
Sky has more than 10 million cutomers in the UK, and Virgin Media claims more than three million. Games console manufacturers are also pushing into the TV market, with Microsoft’s X-Box, Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s Playstation are all offering services.
“But for all its bells and whistles, YouView has a lot of competition to overcome in the coming months.” said Olivier Wolf of Greenwich Consulting. “For many this was an underwhelming launch coming two years too late. Had this launched in 2010, the service would have been a clear success,”
The box also lacks the ability to connect wirelessly to the internet, limiting the devices it can be used with.
Geoff White, technology producer, writes:
Initially dubbed project Kangaroo, the big question for YouView is whether it can punch its weight in a marketplace bulging with competitors.
There’s a battle royale afoot; never in the history of the medium have so many hardware companies been vying to be the box TV viewers plug into the back of their set.
YouView’s lack of wi-fi connection could be a major drawback in a future that looks increasingly wireless.
But it’s price that will be the the key factor.
For £160 you can pick up a Microsoft X-Box 360 that’ll give you iPlayer, 4OD and other TV services. £70 will buy a Sky+ box. So a £300 device starts to look pricey – what does YouView offer that the others don’t?
Of course, that’s a one-off cost, and YouView’s backers will be hoping there will be demand from consumers who don’t want to pay monthly fees to the likes of Sky and Virgin Media. They might also pick up customers from BT and TalkTalk’s subscribers.
But unless they can drop the price, or out-do Sky on marketing (unlikely), YouView may find itself on the ropes.