Digital TV service YouView was finally unveiled by Lord Alan Sugar yesterday, albeit long after its slated 2010 release date. The joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, Channel 5, Arqiva and TalkTalk offers a host of catch-up, on demand and streaming services and it promises more partners are ready to join. But does it live up to the hype or is it simply too late to the party to compete?
The box, manufactured by Humax, costs a prohibitive £299. YouView chairman Lord Alan Sugar says he thinks the cost will probably drop to around £99 within a couple of years. Service providers like BT are likely to offer the boxes as part of TV and broadband packages but pricing has yet to be announced.
Users will have access to 100 digital TV and radio channels, with up to 300 more said to be interested in signing up. It will include stations such as 4oD (Channel 4’s on demand service) and regional channels like STV. Outspoken YouView critic Sky has signalled it will add its Now TV service to the venture at some point in the future.
The interface will look familiar to digital TV users, with a list of scrollable channels and an overlay onto live TV to let you flick through the options. You are also able to flick backwards in time (up to seven days for BBC) to catch up on programs you have missed out on. Questions remain about how it will compete with the “home screen” of other TV services.
The YouView service is not backwards compatible with older set-top boxes – if you want the new service, you’re going to have to shell out. It is, though, compatible with most modern TVs, so you won’t have to run out and buy a new telly to go with your new box. You will also need a broadband connection.
The Humax DTR-T1000, to give it its full name, has a 500GB inbuilt hard drive that will allow you to store up to 300 hours of standard definition and 125 hours of high definition programmes. It has an HDMI connection to provide the high definition video and an ethernet cable to plug into your broadband.
The YouView box is a good one-stop-shop for getting all your catch-up, on demand and streaming services. It doesn’t offer anything particularly new (most of the services can be found on a laptop or your Xbox, for instance) but it’s a slick and intuitive way of tapping into what is already out there. It is, however, horribly late to the party and will face an uphill struggle to win over viewers who have already invested in alternative products. The £299 price-tag will rule out 99 per cent of its potential audience. Let’s hope providers like BT can offer it for a fraction of that or, better still, free when you sign up to their services.