YouView is a hybrid television platform in the United Kingdom, developed by a partnership of three telecommunications operators and four broadcasters. It was formed from a project originally titled Project Canvas, which was rebranded as YouView in September 2010. The service was due to launch by the end of that year, but was delayed until 4 July 2012. At its launch, YouView's chairman Alan Sugar stated his ambition for the service to replace Freeview devices.
|Founded||16 September 2010|
(launched July 2012) in London, England
|Headquarters||3rd Floor, 10 Lower Thames Street, London, UK|
|Simon Duffy, Chairman|
Susie Buckridge, CEO
|Products||Digital terrestrial television set-top boxes|
|Services||IPTV, electronic programme guide, video on demand, digital video recording|
YouView provides access to free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) channels (both DVB-T and DVB-T2 channels in common with the Freeview television platform) and to TV on demand (catch-up TV) services via a 'hybrid' set-top box (STB) purchased by users, connected with both a broadband internet connection and a normal television aerial. No contract is required, and there is no subscription charge. Catch-up and on-demand content is delivered over the internet, which may be chargeable by the Internet service provider (ISP), or subject to limits and fair usage clauses.
BT and TalkTalk have each partnered with YouView, allowing BT subsidiaries BT TV and Plusnet TV, and TalkTalk TV customers to access the service, along with BT's and TalkTalk's own offerings. Both companies provide customers with their own branded YouView set-top box.
The YouView hardware is a digital terrestrial television DVB-T2 HD set-top box that provides viewing and recording of all free-to-air channels available on digital terrestrial television in the United Kingdom. There is no access to some streamed channels in the 225–256 range on Freeview, as YouView lacks support for the MHEG-5 integration channel used by these channels to provide them over IP.
Additional content is provided over a broadband internet connection, and can be accessed via the YouView menu and EPG via the search function.
There are ten free catch up TV players available, providing access to TV programming and movies: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, STV Player, Milkshake!, UKTV Play, S4C, POP FUN and Quest. The content on ITV Hub varies by region. STV Player is only available in STV Group regions.
YouView from BT
BT Infinity subscribers can access additional live IPTV channels via the EPG. Customers who subscribe to BT TV will receive either a YouView+ (YouView plus) box (with recording capabilities), or a standard YouView box (no recording capabilities), or a YouView Ultra HD box – depending on the subscription type taken. They can then view on-demand content through the BT TV Player.
Subscribers to BT Infinity who are not BT TV subscribers, and have bought their YouView boxes from retail vendors, will have their product's YouView branding replaced by BT TV branding. They will also get the BT TV player on the starting page, which they cannot use because they are not BT TV subscribers. This has not been popular with these users, and there appears to be no way of restoring the YouView branding or removing the BT TV Player.
YouView from TalkTalk
A free YouView box is provided to TalkTalk Plus or Essentials customers taking out a fixed term contract and allow access to the content previously available from TalkTalk TV. Content that TalkTalk provides, such as film rentals and box sets, are available from the TalkTalk Player application within the YouView menu bar. In the TalkTalk Player, there are 'boosts' that customers can buy for a minimum of one month, and customers can watch and record them from the main guide the same as Freeview channels. These boosts range from Sky premium channels, sports, TV box sets, films, and foreign language channels. TalkTalk use their own brand of Huawei-manufactured boxes, with the TalkTalk logo on the front, a remote control with a direct button on the TalkTalk Player, and a 320 GB hard drive for Plus TV customers. Essentials customers cannot record, but can still pause live TV. Unlike BT, you do not need a fibre broadband package.
Project Canvas was initially announced on 11 December 2008 as a partnership between the BBC, BT and ITV plc. It followed the failure of Project Kangaroo, a proposed video-on-demand service offering content from BBC Worldwide, ITV.com, and Channel 4's 4oD, which was blocked on competition grounds, and ended up as the SeeSaw internet television service. Project Canvas differed from Kangaroo, however, in that it was a proposed TV platform (a device that would deliver internet-connected TV), rather than a video-on-demand service (that would act as a single content portal, much like the music video equivalent VEVO).
On 30 July 2009, Project Canvas announced that Five had signed up to the project. On 9 July 2010, Five announced that it would not pursue further involvement in Project Canvas, pending a review of its digital investment strategy. Charles Constable, Director of Strategy at Five said: "We continue to support the objectives of Project Canvas, and despite withdrawing our interest in the venture we believe it will be a critical part of our strategy for reaching consumers in the future." On 24 August 2010, Five re-joined Project Canvas, following their acquisition by Northern & Shell.
The six partners invited any further expressions of interest from companies interested in becoming part of the joint venture. The canvas partners proposed that all prospective venture partners should be granted an equal proportion of shares in the new joint venture company. Interested parties had until 23 April 2010 to express their interest.
On 22 March 2010 transmission firm Arqiva joined as an equal partner in the project.
On 17 May 2010 the then Project Canvas director Richard Halton said: "We have also put out an invitation for an eighth partner, and we would like a company that can add scale and expertise to the platform. It is a question of finding an organisation that shares the aims of the venture." It was later reported that, EE, the UK operations of Orange and T-Mobile, had decided against joining, after holding advanced discussions.
The BBC and other broadcasters with investments in YouView have announced intentions to sell their shares. An on-demand service for by Sony's UK Kids channel POP was released via a software update on 10 January 2018 called POP FUN.
On 23 July 2010 Kip Meek was announced as the non-executive chairman of Project Canvas. Meek led the Board, and oversaw the appointment of Richard Halton as CEO from programme director. Meek stepped down from his full-time role at Ingenious Media and his non-executive positions at the Broadband Stakeholder Group and Phorm to take the job. As chair, Meek was paid £97,000 during his eight-month tenure.
Meek left YouView on 7 March 2011, and was replaced by Alan Sugar with immediate effect, who was brought on board by Channel 5's Richard Desmond. The move was partly based on his experience with set-top boxes, in particular that of Sky, and partly due to his likely influence in retaining confidence in the various partners. Sugar was paid £500,000 for chairing YouView for the year ending March 2012.
Alan Sugar stepped down as Chairman in March 2013, with TalkTalk group chairman Sir Charles Dunstone taking on the chairmanship as an interim position. In October 2013 Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment chairman Simon Duffy was named as non-executive chairman of YouView on a permanent basis.
On 13 November 2009, BBC Future Media and Technology director Erik Huggers previewed the work-in-progress user interface that could power the Project Canvas at C21 Media's FutureMedia conference in London. The mock-up of how the Beijing Olympic Games would look on Canvas allowed users to watch highlights instantly, send clips to friends, monitor what's being said on Twitter, access archives at the touch of a button, and use commercial third party applications and services.
Following the BBC Trust's provisional approval of the BBC's participation, the partners formed a new joint venture to develop the technical specification for devices with standards body the Digital TV Group (DTG), create and market a new consumer brand, build a common user experience, and build the technology platform. All technical specifications must be clearly published to allow manufacturers to adapt to the new Canvas standard.
The BBC initially began working with three innovation partners; Technicolor SA, Humax, and Cisco Systems; from the consumer device manufacturing sector on the development of the Canvas core technical specifications. The relationships have non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), non-binding collaboration agreements, and agreements ensuring any intellectual property (IP) the trio develop can be shared with the industry. On 5 March 2010, in a 'questions and answers' (Q&A) session at the DTG Summit, Richard Halton, then programme director for Project Canvas, confirmed that Canvas has direct collaboration relationships with various manufacturers and industry players – including Cisco, Technicolor, Humax, Intel, LG Group, and Broadcom – and Halton stressed that collaboration with the DTG was "absolutely critical" to the project's future success.
The system offers access to the broadcasters' own video on demand (VOD), but has also promised to offer a software developers' kit (SDK) to encourage internet content on to the screen. Canvas also promised to offer payment mechanisms to content owners who wish to charge for their content.
Speaking on 25 February 2010, BT Vision chief executive Marc Watson announced that the project was targeting a commercial launch within the next 12 months, initially aimed at the UK's 10 million Freeview households as a starting point. Open technical standards required for third-party developers to create services for the Canvas platform would be published in the summer. He added that a management group, called The Venture, would run the platform in a neutral, non-discriminatory way, and that should BSkyB wish to take part, it would apply to this body, which is not influenced by individual corporate considerations.
On 7 May 2010, Project Canvas submitted key documents to the Digital TV Group (DTG), making the next set of technical specifications available to industry. The publication of these documents is in addition to Project Canvas partners' active participation in the DTG Connected TV working groups. This DTG work was to result in publication of the UK Connected TV Specification: D-Book 7, by December 2010. In addition to the previously available Consumer Device Platform Specification and Broadcast Content Delivery Specification, further documents were published in the members' area of the DTG website; including the Consumer Device Software Management Specification, IP Content Delivery Specification, and System Metadata Model.
On 6 July 2010 Project Canvas published information on its content protection strategy. Providers can choose to make content available with no protection at all, or adopt transport encryption, file encryption, device authentication, or digital rights management (DRM). Conditional access (CA) upgrade will also be possible for those who require it. For providers of premium content, Canvas will support Marlin as the required DRM solution, at launch, which has been developed over the past five years by Intertrust, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, and Sony. The selection of Marlin follows widespread industry engagement with content owners, content distributors, device manufacturers, and internet service providers (ISPs), from which it was concluded that a common DRM solution present on all devices at launch, and widely supported by content providers would benefit all industry participants. Marlin is referenced in Release 1 of the Open IPTV Forum specifications, and therefore has the potential to be widely adopted as a part of internet-connected TV device deployments worldwide.
On 11 August 2010, the Project Canvas partners formally invited expressions of interest from consumer equipment manufacturers to develop and bring Canvas devices to market in 2011. By the 25 August deadline, more than forty organisations had expressed their support for the Project Canvas, representing a broad range of consumer device manufacturers; including set-top boxes, internet-enabled TVs, and recorders. Project Canvas evaluated the responses, with those selected to be taken through to the next stage of the evaluation process by the end of September. The initial target of Canvas was twin-tuner digital terrestrial television DVB-T2 IP-connected digital video recorders (DVR). Project Canvas also welcomed a response from device manufacturers proposing other device categories, such as internet-enabled TV (IETV) and set-top boxes. Canvas devices would be made available to consumers though both retail channels and bundled with broadband packages.
The service offer on-demand TV; from 4oD, BBC iPlayer, Demand Five, and ITV Player; and high-definition PVR capabilities without a monthly subscription fee, but will allow commercial broadcasters to use micro payments, and pre-, mid- and post-roll adverts to generate income. The YouView electronic programme guide (EPG) will not carry any advertising, in line with the not-for-profit aims of the business. While YouView will not have a payment system, commercial content owners will be able to insert their own, or use facilitators such as PayPal.
In May 2010 the Financial Times reported that the name YouView was the most likely brand for the service, having been registered as intellectual property (IP) by the group of broadcasters in April. On 16 September 2010 YouView TV Ltd was incorporated, and the product branded under the YouView name. At the same time, Richard Halton was appointed as CEO of YouView TV Ltd, having previously served as programme director for Project Canvas.
On 16 September 2010 a 'Notice of threatened opposition' was filed against YouView with the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO). Robin Fry, an intellectual property partner at law firm Beachcroft LLP, said that the site's similarity to YouTube could cause consumers to confuse the two brands. The use of the world 'You', coupled with a capitalised character in the middle of the word, might suggest a connection between the services. If Google did object, it would be highly likely to win any legal action, according to Fry. "Google is involved in litigation all over the world, and would not be frightened of taking action against this trademark. It has a clear interest in protecting its trademarks to stop them being diluted", he said.
On 4 November 2010, YouView appointed Adam & Eve as its advertising agency to create through-the-line advertising and communications. OMD was also appointed as YouView's planning and buying agency, and Momentum will act as YouView's specialist retail and experiential marketing agency. The teams are tasked with coordinating the brand launch and roll-out of YouView across all media and channels.
On 13 May 2011, Technicolor, one of the original set-top-box hardware manufacturing partners decided to withdraw from the project. The six remaining manufacturers at that point were Humax, Huawei, Pace, Manhattan, Vestel, and Cisco.
On-demand players are available to all customers who have a YouView box connected to broadband. Players vary as rentals, on demand, subscription and catch-up.
- BBC iPlayer (catch-up)
- ITV Hub (catch-up)
- All 4 (catch-up & on-demand)
- My5 (catch-up)
- Milkshake (catch-up)
- POP FUN (catch-up)
- Now TV (subscription)
- Sky Store (rental + buy & keep)
- UKTV (Dave, Really, Yesterday) (catch-up)
- TalkTalk Player (for TT customers only)
- BT TV Player (for BT customers only)
- Netflix Player (subscription)
- Amazon Prime Video (subscription)
On 14 April 2011, YouView published its final core technical specification. The minimum specifications for a YouView-enabled digital terrestrial television (DTT) high-definition (HD) digital video recorder (DVR or PVR) product require:
- Twin DVB-T/DVB-T2 tuners
- Embedded Linux 2.6.23 or later operating system
- Maximum of 26 dB of fan noise
- 4K UHD (Ultra HD) graphics plane
- MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 video
- HDMI 2.1 socket
- TOSLINK optical or coaxial S/PDIF connection
- Up to 5.1 surround sound
- Ethernet port supporting 10BASE-T and 100BASE-TX
- 802.11n wireless network support, integrated, or via a USB adapter
- 950 MHz central processing unit (CPU)
- Two Universal Serial Bus USB 2.0 sockets
- Support for USB mass storage devices
Analogue HD outputs are forbidden as part of the rights management strategy.
The specifications will evolve over time to reflect different devices, including non-PVR and Freesat variants.
Set-top boxes available for the YouView service:
- Humax DTR-T1000 (launch date 24 July 2012).
- Humax DTR-T1000 with BT brand (launch date 1 September 2012). This includes the BT brand and an extra menu item "BT Vision".
- Humax DTR-T1010 (launch date 19 March 2013). The functionally and hardware is exactly the same to the previous DTR-T1000 with different appearance.
- Humax DTR-T2000 (launch date 14 June 2014). Minor redesign and slightly smaller than the previous T1010 design.
- Humax DTR-T2100 with BT YouView+ brand (launch date 25 February 2014). Redesign which is significantly smaller and quieter than previous Humax Youview boxes (because power transformer at plug).
- Humax DTR-T2110 with BT YouView+ brand.
- Humax DTR-T4000 with BT YouView+ Ultra HD band.
- Huawei DN360T with TalkTalk brand (launch date 5 March 2013). No recording is available.
- Huawei DN370T with TalkTalk brand (launch date 5 March 2013). Recording is available.
- Huawei DN371T YouView+ (launch date 5 March 2014).
- Huawei DN372T with TalkTalk brand. Recording is available.
Note 1: each YouView box comes in a variety of hard disk storage sizes, and is often designated by ModelNo/StorageSize – e.g. DTR-T1000/500GB
Note 2: each YouView box does not have support for Wi-Fi, and must connect directly to the router or through power-line adapters. YouView have not allowed Wi-Fi in their software, so USB Wi-Fi dongles will not work – however YouView suggest the use of a third-party (not supplied by YouView) Wireless Ethernet Bridge product may work, see YouView support for updated information.
BBC Trust approval
On 26 February 2009, the BBC Trust launched a public consultation on the BBC Executive's proposal (Project Canvas) to develop a joint venture partnership to help enable the delivery of internet protocol television (IPTV), which would allow viewers to watch on-demand services, via television sets.
On 22 December 2009, the BBC Trust gave provisional approval to the BBC's involvement in Project Canvas after ruling that the likely public value of the proposal justifies any potential negative market impact. A period of consultation on the provisional conclusions closed on 2 February 2010. The BBC Trust has revealed that Project Canvas will cost over £115m in its first four years of operation.
On 25 June 2010, the BBC Trust gave final approval to the BBC's involvement in Project Canvas, stipulating a number of conditions. The Trust concluded that Project Canvas will deliver significant public value for licence fee payers. The Trust will review the BBC's involvement in Canvas against the conditions of its approval, twelve months after launch of Canvas to consumers.
The Digital TV Group (DTG) welcomed the decision, and is working with the Canvas partners and Virgin Media, Sky, and DTG members to develop the UK specification for Connected TV devices and services which will form the 7th edition of the DTG D-Book. A spokesman for Virgin Media said: "We are disappointed the BBC Trust has approved Canvas and ignored the significant concerns raised by the commercial sector about the proposal. Our position on this matter remains unchanged. As it stands, Canvas will severely restrict competition and innovation and ultimately this will harm consumers". A spokesman for British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) said: "The BBC's involvement in Canvas is an unnecessary use of public funds. The BBC Trust's announcement is a predictable decision from a body that has shown little inclination to think independently or set meaningful boundaries on the BBC's activities".
Main conditions of approval
- Industry engagement: completed elements of the Canvas core technical specification to be published within 20 working days from this final approval, and the Canvas partners to engage with industry on these and future elements of the technical specification. The final core technical specification will be published no later than eight months before launch of the first set-top boxes. The Trust will keep this process of engagement under review.
- Free-to-air: users will always be able to access Canvas free-to-air, though they may be charged for additional pay services that third parties might choose to provide via the Canvas platform, for example video on demand services, as well as the broadband subscription fees.
- Accessibility and usability: accessibility and usability features, such as audio description, should be incorporated into the core technical specification and/or user interface as soon as reasonably possible; and appropriate information and signposting should be provided for users to help them make informed choices about the suitability of content wherever possible.
- Access to the platform for content providers and ISPs: entry controls in terms of technical and content standards will be minimal, access will not be bundled with other products or services, listing on the electronic programme guide will be awarded in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner; and quality standards for ISPs delivering Canvas will be set at a minimum level and applied in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.
- Legal compliance: Canvas will comply with all applicable laws, including competition and state aid law.
- Cost: the BBC's involvement will not exceed the Executive's estimated costs by more than 20 per cent over a five-year period.
Following the BBC's proposal in February 2009, there have been comments by a number of organisations and companies which have been published by the BBC in a 392-page document. The BBC Trust reached its provisional conclusions following more than 800 written responses.
The UK's Intellect Technology Association, said in a submission to the BBC Trust that Project Canvas risks isolating the UK as a "technological island" in a global market by trying to create a standard IPTV set-top box for just the UK.
British Sky Broadcasting has continuously, strongly criticised the project funding, saying that public money will be used to give public service broadcasters a foothold in the valuable IPTV, to the disadvantage of "the private sector". BSkyB is likely to raise state aid complaints if it appears that the BBC is shouldering the costs of developing the venture for its partners. Sky estimates that it will lose four percent of revenue as a result of the project.
On 4 February 2010, The Guardian learned that in a submission to the BBC Trust as part of a final consultation on Project Canvas, the Digital TV Group said that there is "widespread concern" that the venture's partners are developing critical technology standards that do not involve key players such as set top-box manufacturers and TV makers. The DTG argue that the BBC Trust's provisional approval document does not contain a "clear and unequivocal condition" that Project Canvas will have to work with industry and there appears to be a "parallel process" taking place where Project Canvas and its preferred technology partners are developing a separate standard.
Morgan Stanley compiled a creative analysis for BT about the potential impact of Canvas, describing it as "Freeview 2.0". Morgan Stanley noted that the BBC Trust will reach a final decision on the BBC's Canvas involvement at the end of March. If it gives the full green light, then the platform could enter launch phase by the end of the year or in early 2011. However, Morgan Stanley noted that any launch date would be dependent on the completion of major technical work, such as locking down specifications with manufacturers and also creating a workable electronic programming guide. Morgan Stanley expects that Canvas set-top boxes will cost between £150 and £200. The report predicts that an App Store-style resource could be introduced to Canvas in the future, along with the integration of social networks such as Twitter. As Canvas will be an open platform, the report noted that content providers would no longer need to pay the current sum of around £10m for capacity on digital terrestrial television to reach their target audience. Internet service providers would also benefit from the service due an increased consumer demand for fixed broadband packages, along with greater opportunities to sell more expensive tariffs for high definition streaming. Storing popular programmes on local Canvas drives would also ease the burden of heavy streaming traffic over broadband networks. Considering outstanding issues facing the project, Morgan Stanley said: "Canvas looks pro-competitive (breaking down platform barriers for content owners), but some media companies could still try to challenge its creation. "It looks unlikely that this could freeze launch however as content is not being aggregated and the BBC shareholding will be only 16.6%."
On 4 March 2010, The Daily Telegraph learned that Neil Berkett, Virgin Media's chief executive, would tell the Cable Congress in Brussels "the BBC Trust's consultation has been a shameless whitewash that contravenes almost every principle of good regulation." Mr Berkett objects to proposals to force all broadcasters to use a single 'Project Canvas' brand controlled by the BBC and its partners, which he claims will penalise commercial rivals. "The BBC Trust has stubbornly ignored all requests to address our concerns by imposing safeguards to prevent the BBC emerging as de facto gatekeeper of the digital world. This is a blatant demonstration that the Trust is incapable of regulating the BBC's activities in an objective way." On 28 April 2010, Neil Berkett confirmed that Virgin Media had made a submission to the Office of Fair Trading over Project Canvas. "Canvas needs to be an open platform but it is closed and will require a [second] dedicated set-top box," said Berkett. "We will oppose it vigorously if it is not an open world at large for customers to take advantage of. [The current proposals] are asking pay-TV customers to buy a second set-top box." He added that he considered it a misuse of the licence fee to create a product that was not accessible to all the public. "It is funded by the BBC licence fee and should be available everywhere, on a Virgin Box, a PS3 and even a Sky box," he said. "I find it extraordinary that it looks like the BBC Trust is endorsing what is a closed product. It is inappropriate for the BBC to be doing this."
On 14 June 2010, Neil Berkett revealed to The Guardian that "Far from trying to block the development of these open standards, we have offered to work commercially with Canvas to explore mutually beneficial ways in which we could incorporate them as a self-contained service in the next generation of Virgin Media set-top boxes." Berkett went on to explain his opposition to the project; "The Canvas consortium has rejected the opportunity to incorporate Canvas into the Virgin Media customer experience, insisting that if we want to use their standards we must also accept that the entire Virgin Media entertainment service be accessed by our subscribers via a Canvas-imposed interface, including the Canvas channel listing and search facility. This "shop window" to services would be entirely controlled by the joint venture partners and would allow the Canvas partners to give preference and prominence to their own channel content above that of any other content provider. At this point, Canvas starts to look less like a set of genuinely "open" standards and more like a fully-fledged competing distribution platform from which established pay TV operators are effectively excluded, along with other innovative platforms offering a differentiated user experience, such as the PS3 and the Xbox. Unless we accept the Canvas consortium's conditions, people who want both Canvas and a pay TV service will have to buy two set-top boxes. Far from simplifying the digital world, Canvas will complicate it." On the BBC's involvement Berkett said: "Quite rightly, much attention has been focused on whether the BBC should be using the licence fee to bank-roll such a controversial intervention in a dynamic market. And it's true that many private sector companies are already investing precious capital in "connected TV". But it's the closed nature of the Canvas platform which gives the BBC's involvement significance. A set of standards that are genuinely open to all and to which the BBC has contributed is one thing. A proprietary gateway to the digital world, underpinned by the formidable brand and marketing muscle of the BBC, is quite another."
On 5 March 2010, in a Q&A session at the DTG Summit, Richard Halton, then programme director for Project Canvas, faced criticism from Digital TV Group members about the lack of published technical specifications for the platform. In response, he asked members to appreciate the "tough and pretty challenging" schedule exerted on the project. However, Halton acknowledged the DTG's desire for more effective engagement with Canvas, and committed to publishing the remaining key technical documents by the end of May.
On 19 April 2010, 3view managing director John Donovan has said that he is "concerned" about the potential market impact of IPTV joint venture Project Canvas. "The honest answer is that no-one has spoken to me from the BBC about what Canvas will entail. We do not understand what Canvas's remit will be and we do not subscribe to the belief that Canvas will provide something the commercial market can't. We have proved that we can do it," he told Digital Spy. Donovan declined to be drawn on whether 3view would consider a legal challenge to Canvas, but did say that his business will defend its ability to compete in the market. "I think we would have to reserve comment [on possible legal action]. But at this stage, clearly, we will protect our business at all costs. And I think, we will just have to leave it there for the moment."
Office of Fair Trading approval
On 22 March 2010, the Project Canvas partners submitted analysis to the Office of Fair Trading setting out why the proposed Canvas joint venture does not constitute a qualifying merger under the Enterprise Act 2002. On 19 May 2010, the OFT confirmed that it would not investigate Project Canvas over competition issues. As none of the partners were contributing a "pre-existing business" to Project Canvas, the OFT ruled that it "did not have the jurisdiction" to investigate the venture on competition grounds. "Unlike in the Project Kangaroo joint venture which was blocked by the Competition Commission in 2009, it is not proposed that the joint venture partners will contribute any video-on-demand content or other business to [Project] Canvas, and Canvas will have no role in aggregating, marketing or directly retailing any such television content," said the OFT. The OFT also said that it found that none of the partners would have a "material influence" over the policy of the venture – the "lowest level of control that may give rise to a relevant merger situation".
On 3 August 2010, Virgin Media lodged a complaint with Ofcom claiming that Project Canvas is an anti-competitive cartel that will crush the nascent online TV market. The cable TV company, which is also calling on the Office of Fair Trading to step in on the grounds that the venture breaches the Competition Act, argues that the six partners backing Project Canvas have not stuck to their stated pledge of creating a set of open standards for delivering next-generation TV services. "Collectively the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 account for around two-thirds of all television viewing in the UK while BT and TalkTalk control over half the national broadband market," said Virgin Media. "[Project Canvas] will stifle future innovation as well as eliminate existing consumer choice for home entertainment. These well-resourced companies usually are direct competitors in their respective markets but... they are establishing a single new TV platform of their own with a considerable incentive to favour this over other TV services. This could severely affect consumer options for watching public service programming in the future."
Virgin Media has also complained that Project Canvas has wrongly rejected what the company considers fair offers of integrating the technology into its own set-top boxes with a compromise on user interface. "We have not taken the decision to file this complaint lightly," said a Virgin Media spokesman. "However, the Canvas partners have significantly exceeded their original claims to be creating a common set of open standards which could have been improved upon by others and are now intent on controlling every aspect of how people watch television."
On 18 August 2010, IP Vision formally complained to Ofcom, calling on the regulator to examine the impact Project Canvas will have on innovation, competition and consumer choice. IP Vision is challenging the validity of Project Canvas, under the 1998 Competition Act. The company has already challenged the BBC over support for BBC iPlayer.
On 30 August 2010, Six TV, the largest holder of analogue television restricted service licences in the UK (none of which are in use), announced that it would formally request a full Ofcom investigation of Canvas, warning that it could be a "poison pill" for regional broadcasters. Six TV will also submit its complaint regarding Canvas – which includes broader concerns regarding anti-competitive practices affecting digital television transmission in the UK – to the Office of Fair Trading. Six TV also intends to lobby communications minister Ed Vaizey. On 9 September 2010, United For Local TV an umbrella group which represents five local broadcasters with restricted service licenses (including Six TV), asked Ofcom to investigate the Project Canvas connected-TV venture on competition grounds. United For Local TV complained that qualification for including those services is "arbitrary", fees are charged that are "unrelated to a service provider's ability to pay", their channels would be hard to find on the EPG, the JV members may exploit viewer data "for commercial advantage" and Canvas could "prevent viewers from obtaining any streamed services on the open internet from TV channels who are unwilling or unable to meet the access terms."
On 13 September 2010, the Open Source Consortium, the UK trade body for organisations working in Open Source Software, submitted a formal objection to Ofcom asking it to investigate the project. In its submission to the media regulator, the OSC said that Canvas will have "adverse consequences" for the device and software sector by "diminishing consumer choice and causing inevitable consumer harm".
On 24 September 2010, ISBA – the trade body representing advertisers, joined a growing list of parties asking Ofcom to investigate YouView. ISBA director of media and advertising Bob Wootton believes that the project could represent a "quasi-monopoly". Wootton also claimed that the BBC Trust's recent consultation on Canvas/YouView was "insufficient" for a platform that would carry advertising.
On 28 September 2010, Electra Entertainment – a UK-based IPTV service provider, complained to media regulator Ofcom that YouView will "damage" the UK's interactive TV sector. Electra has developed an IPTV platform, called Trove, which brings rich media services to the TV screen. It is currently available on Tesco-branded Freeview set top boxes. Electra believes that "the proposed vision, shareholder structure and aims of YouView are anti-competitive and significantly damage the UK interactive TV market". The firm also claimed that YouView's estimated initial marketing budget of £48 million is a "major cause for concern amongst venture capitalists looking to fund competing private British businesses in this emerging broadband TV sector".
On 13 October 2010, British Sky Broadcasting submitted a last-minute complaint to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading. The media regulator is now likely to delay a decision on whether to launch a full investigation into the service, previously called Project Canvas, while it considers Sky's objection. News of Sky's move prompted an angry reaction from the YouView chief executive, Richard Halton, "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 said. Sky is believed to argue in its submission that the seven-partner YouView venture will stifle competition in the on-demand market.
On 19 October 2010, Ofcom announced that it will not open an investigation into Project Canvas (YouView) under the Competition Act following complaints made by Virgin Media and IPVision. Ofcom also received submissions from 11 other parties, including BSkyB.
The regulator said that it is "premature" to open an investigation into YouView, as "whether or not YouView and its partners will harm competition in the ways alleged will depend upon how this emerging market develops and how they act, particularly in relation to providing access to content and issuing technical standards". Ofcom noted that there is "little evidence" at this stage that YouView partners the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 plan to restrict access to their video on-demand content.
Ofcom do not propose to open a Competition Act investigation, however Ofcom will continue to monitor developments, particularly in relation to YouView's approach to sharing standards and its effects on content syndication. If evidence emerges that the operation of YouView could cause harm to viewers and consumers in the future, Ofcom may reconsider whether to investigate.
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