YouView to change the future of TV?
Even with global audiences becoming fragmented, TV remains arguably the only real mass medium capable of sustaining audience attention for long periods. And come early 2011, audiences in the UK will have further reason to stay glued to their TV sets as YouView, a new free-to-air, Web-connected TV service begins its UK roll-out.
Mixing content distribution strategies of Apple's App Store, YouTube, BBC iPlayer and UK free-to-air digital TV service FreeView, YouView promises to "change the way you watch TV forever". Formerly known as Project Canvas, YouView is the brainchild of a coalition of leading UK terrestrial broadcasters and broadband providers including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Arqiva and TalkTalk.
With the installation of a subscription-free special set-top box (STB) connected to an existing broadband Internet connection, viewers will be able to watch programmes of their choosing, up to seven days after broadcast, including access to content from online portals BBC iPlayer, ITV.com and 4OD. In addition, YouView grants viewers access to Internet services such as YouTube, Facebook and Flickr directly via TV.
"YouView is a brilliant new subscription-free TV service which combines the best TV with on-demand services and Internet content. I am delighted to be leading the team who will make it a reality and I think it will change the way we watch TV forever," hailed Richard Halton, CEO of YouView.
Thus, while YouView is set to ignite TV viewers' interest in the UK, could this new TV model take root in the Asia-Pacific region as well? YouView communications manager Alia Ilyas thinks that it is possible for the YouView initiative to work outside the UK.
"Our initial focus is the UK market. However, there is a lot of interest in the model globally, and as we are developing a standards-based approach, there will be opportunities for global manufacturers to benefit from other regions adopting this," she told APB.
With the technology infrastructure in place, it would seem to suggest that a TV platform similar to YouView could well be applicable in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific region.
"A set-up like this can, of course, be offered anywhere in the world, and services are being offered in various forms. The developed markets of Asia-Pacific with high broadband penetration levels can have greater traction of this technology. Some TVs now come with built-in Internet capabilities and widgets that allow viewing of YouTube and other free content on the TV," Adeel Najam, senior industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan, shared with APB.
However, any similar set-up like YouView would likely meet with considerable resistance in Asia, as it does in the UK, cautioned Najam.
"The technology might be pushed by Internet players and content owners that distribute free-to-air content but do not expect pay-TV providers (cable TV and IPTV) in the Asia-Pacific to do the same as it might cannibalise their services to some extent."
And the technology may reach Asian shores soon. Last month, for instance, the Singapore government announced a tender for a new nationwide digital video delivery system that will do away with multiple pay-TV STBs. The tender, according to Yong Ying-I, chairman of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), will allow users to seamlessly access interactive video services and applications currently offered by local telcos SingTel and StarHub, as well as future players such as M1.
A Web-enabled STB will also enable viewers to access non-pay-TV services and content, added Yong. This tender comes on the heels of the recent roll-out of The Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NGNBN), Singapore's all-fibre ultra-high-speed broadband network that is capable of delivering data at speeds of 1Gbps and above to all homes, offices and schools.
Singapore's dominant terrestrial broadcaster MediaCorp is also upbeat about the idea of YouView. Chang Long Jong, MediaCorp's deputy CEO, Television, said: "What we see in YouView is the beginning of the convergence of broadcast and broadband services in a box.
"For Singapore, this is definitely a possibility in the future but only after free-to-air TV has made the switch to digital broadcasting in a few years' time. However, with the local wired network like cable and NGNBN, this could happen earlier if the retail service providers (RSP) bundle features such as high-speed Internet access, interactivity and TV recording."