Thursday, 12 July 2012

YouView post-mortem comments

YouView (the successor to Freeview) has finally launched after 4 years of much debate and delays. 

Here are some post-mortem thoughts and comments. If you have not followed YouView then read this article from Paul Sawers.

Before the recent launch of YouView most of the media wrote plenty articles telling us YouView was too late to market since Smart TV’s had already arrived. What these articles clearly failed to do was understanding what YouView was all about and had promised so far and how this compared with Smart TV’s. Yes with Smart TV’s you can access catch-up TV & video such as the iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube etc. but YouView promised a few things that made a comparison to existing Smart TV’s almost feel like an insult to YouView.

So what did YouView promise that was different?
  1. EPG with ability to go backwards on all channels and view this as Catch up-TV.
  2. Non-Freeview broadcasters able to create their own channels and add it on the EPG.
  3. 3rd party Application Development Platform.

As you can see NONE of the Smart TV’s can offer anything like this which in my opinion make them look like Dinosaurs.

Let us then fast forward to day 1 and see what YouView is giving us.
The answer is we are getting an EPG with the ability to go backward on some (not all) of the channels. Yup that's it.

With this limited EPG and no app market and no extra channels all we are getting from day 1 is an EPG with shortcuts to where the catch-up program is. Ironically it makes those early “clueless” media writers end up being right after all but only for now.

For the £70 million investment so far we are obviously counting on more to come than just having an EPG with shortcuts to the various online players so the question becomes “Will YouView survive the competition in the future?”

YouView has enough strong backing to suggest they will stay in the market for many years but this alone is no guarantee. With the initial launch soon out of the way it becomes critical for YouView to show what their plans are for involving non-Freeview broadcasters and 3rd party application development to integrate with the current program been shown. This is an area where YouView will truly shine in the future, if they deliver. YouView need to gain the trust of this development market by revealing their plans before it becomes too late. If they do they will truly set the pace and drive innovation and if not it will remain a product for grannies.

Currently it is not too late because there is no serious alternative ready to run faster.  Smart TV’s have said they want to create an app market too but that’s all we know. Apple TV has been around a while now with no significant further vision and since it is not a TV it cannot be compared. Google TV made bullish comments last year it would be in half of all new TV’s by this summer and yet there is no sign of it being in more than 2 TV’s, a media box and 1 Blue-Ray player. That's the extend of YouView's competition at the moment.

Therefore YouView still has some time to play with but they cannot wait much longer because even Apple TV, Smart TV’s and Google TV as we know them now could soon be dinosaurs and less attractive. Not from YouView but from new innovative products.

New innovation will continue to emerge and one such interesting development is that of Smart TV being available on a “dongle” ready to plug into your HDMI slot on your existing TV. There are several such innovative products already here or on the way. One such example is Pocket TV (see video here).

This is interesting as the product will run Google’s Android system with its entire app market available and the product is so small it does not take up any space. Will Google TV then just become an app on its own system? Maybe Google has already thought about this. If not then someone just need to create a smart EPG app with shortcut links to existing catch-up players and then they have what YouView has today. The only difference would be that live TV is on a different button on the remote and with a £200 difference in price I am sure customers’ wont mind. Unless YouView get tempted to release cheaper version of it's product without the PVR drive (if we get catch-up tv on all channels).

YouView, seize the opportunity, be much more open about your future product path and stay ahead of the competition.

PS I left out Sky and Virgin on purpose as they are not free and not easily available to all people.

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