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PostSubject: YouView And On-Demand TV   Mon Nov 01, 2010 2:40 am

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On-demand services are set to flood the market and competition is increasing between YouView, BSkyB and Virgin Media

Have Sky and Virgin Media got what they wanted? On 22 October, Sky quietly launched Sky Anytime+, a video-on-demand service that required a vastly expensive rewrite of its set-top box software. "It's a big job to get right but we think we've cracked it," said Mike Darcey, Sky's chief operating officer, adding that the service's lengthy gestation had "caused no pain". Virgin Media finds itself in a similar position. The cable operator plans to launch its own next-generation on-demand service, powered by TiVo's set-top boxes, during the fourth quarter of this year. If both companies feel no pain, this may be because they've been so successful in delaying YouView, the competing free-to-air platform planned by a seven-strong consortium of broadcasters and ISPs.

Sky's launch came just three days after Ofcom finally cleared the way for YouView. This followed the Office of Fair Trading's decision not to investigate under competition rules. In June, the BBC Trust greenlit YouView, though it laid down multiple conditions.

The consortium endured a last-minute appeal by BSkyB to Ofcom that left YouView's chief executive, Rob Halton, fuming about the pay TV provider's "pursuit of commercial self-interest rather than the public interest". Now YouView faces a wait of at least nine months until its first set-top boxes emerge. Kip Meek, its chairman, recently warned the launch date may change, saying "the first half of next year" was intended, but adding "it may slip, it's a technology project". According to an interview last week in Broadcast, Meek expects the London Olympics to be a key moment in take-up of the service, enthusing about the prospect of apps to follow athletes or bookmarked reminders of events.

1. The BBC shouldn't be in the business of delivery platforms Sky argued repeatedly that the BBC's participation in YouView "goes well beyond" its remit. Yet this objection emerges against the backdrop of a 50/50 split between pay TV and free-to-air households.

2) Membership of the YouView club is "unjustifiably exclusive" Sky has pointed to the cost of participation in YouView.

3) YouView wants to control the user experience According to Neil Berkett, the chief executive of Virgin Media, YouView has insisted that "if we want to use their standards we must also accept … a Canvas-imposed interface".
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