YouView Digital TV Service Finally Launched

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

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Was YouView it worth the two-year wait?

YouView, the much-delayed Internet TV service backed by the majority of UK broadcasters, finally launched today.

Developed under the name “Project Canvas”, it combines Freeview channels and digital on-demand content, allowing users to pause, rewind and record live television.

To access YouView, users will require a set-top box, which will be available from high street retailers by the end of the month, and cost £299 with no further subscription fees.

As an alternative, BT and TalkTalk have signed up to bundle YouView with their broadband packages.

Better late than never?

Project Canvas was first announced on 11 December 2008, as a result of a partnership between the BBC, ITV and BT, intended to introduce Internet TV to the masses. The venture was later joined by Channel 4, Channel 5, Arqiva and TalkTalk.

The service was originally scheduled to begin in 2010. Due to technical and regulatory issues, it was pushed back to summer 2011, when Lord Alan Sugar took charge of the company. Change of leadership didn’t help, and the project was delayed for another year, with a spring 2012 launch in mind.

The service will give users free access to over 100 digital TV and radio channels, including some HD content. YouView told the BBC that a further 300 content providers, including Sky, have expressed interest in joining the system.

In the future, YouView will allow movie studios and television production companies to run their own channels.

The Internet TV service will be running through a set-top box made by South Korean company Humax, which was unveiled today. It will require both an aerial and an Internet connection with a minimum speed of 3Mbps to work. However, the first generation box will not have a Wi-Fi connection.

All of the content recorded through YouView will be stored on a 320GB hard disk drive. If that’s not enough, the box also supports mass storage devices that can be connected through two USB 2.0 sockets. The system is operated through a clean, modern interface, built on a Linux kernel and designed specifically to be controlled by a remote.

“The challenge will be to convince people to pay at least £300 up-front for a digital service in a relatively embryonic state. Many will be relying on a promise that there will be a wealth of features and functions to come from YouView further down the line,” said Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at

“Although it clearly intends to be a strong proposition for late digital TV adopters, it remains to be seen whether YouView will prove compelling enough to carve out a space for itself at this stage in a highly competitive space, especially with a steep retail price and relative paucity of content at launch.”

Many analysts have suggested that the success of the project will be threatened by the rise of Smart TVs, which can offer many YouView functions at no extra cost.

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