The BBC yesterday released an update to their online iPlayer on-demand TV catchup service which will bring users a step closer to what they can expect from YouView, the set-top box that will marry your TV and the Internet. The latest update to iPlayer now allows users to find content from the other key players involved in the YouView project, namely, ITV, Channel4, Five and SeeSaw (the previously named Project Kangaroo that was bought by YouView partner Arqiva). What the new update doesn’t do, is allow you to actually watch things on iPlayer from the other channels but instead you get a link to content on other sites. It does make it easier to find anything you want to watch though- a one stop shop for online catchup services, much like YouView is intended to be, and Project Kangaroo before that.
This update to iPlayer is all about user-interface and making it easier for viewers to be able to access online video content, which also happens to be the key focus of YouView. Bringing content to users in a useful way has been a key challenge of websites for years. The advent of online-video, particularly programmes that are traditionally seen on a TV, has made this a much harder challenge as people are used to watching TV content on their TV, not their computer screen. YouView is one answer to this problem. A problem could be on the cards though, and that is penetration.
YouView was originally announced under its original guise ‘Project Canvas’ in December 2008, and consumers are not going to see the fruits of this until set-top boxes are launched in early 2012. Other manufacturers are already in the market with set-top boxes that offer iPlayer and TV manufacturers are starting to offer “connected TV’s” (such as Google TV available through Sony) which allow access to online content with iPlayer built in and access to other Internet services such as YouTube, and general web content.
YouView’s downfall could be the delay to get things to market which may largely be due to requirements to get the BBC trust to sign-off and the intention of creating an ‘open’ platform that should support other services, whilst working in the existing content from the BBC, ITV, C4 etc. We are really still at an early-adopter stage of the market and until connected-TV’s start to saturate it, YouView will probably still hold some ground, particularly with the likes of BT and TalkTalk intending to sell devices to their existing customer base. All is therefore not lost yet, but further delays could allow others to steal too much ground, rendering this public backed project as a white-elephant.