Could BT take full control of YouView?
According to a report in The Telegraph, BT is considering the move in order to allow it to invest more in the development of the platform as it prepares to go head-to-head with Sky's latest premium pay TV product, Sky Q.
Launched in 2012, YouView was originally lauded as the next generation of Freeview, with all major free-to-air terrestrial broadcasters and multiplex operators joining forces with BT and TalkTalk with the service providing Freeview channels alongside live and catch-up TV services delivered via the internet. Although YouView boxes can still be bought as a standalone device, the vast majority of YouView users have the service through either BT, TalkTalk or BT sibling Plusnet, who operate their pay TV services on the platform.
This development led to the main terrestrial broadcasters and multiplex operator Arqiva slashing their stake in the project and joining forces to create Freeview Play, a new service combining the existing Freeview and Freeview HD service with catch-up and on-demand TV, without the need to sign up for a specific broadband supplier.
Although BT has refused to comment on the report, dismissing it as "rumour and speculation", acquiring the biggest stake in YouView would enable it to develop the platform according to its needs and timescales. BT had previously indicated that the decision making process is slow due to having to consult all shareholders.
There has been a lot of criticism about the platform in the past and how development of the service is restricting non-stakeholders accessing the service. In 2014, Sky threatened to pull the limited version of Now TV off YouView in a row over costs and the lack of ability to provide live versions of the channels carried on Now TV. At the time, critics said the lack of development was stopping Sky from offering its channels, including Sky Atlantic directly to YouView users, despite Sky having to make BT's channels available on its Electronic Programme Guide, which are marketing directly by BT to Sky viewers. The reported threat to remove Now TV was never carried out.
Prior to this, there had also been criticism over the lack of access to Freeview's streamed channel services, found on channels 225 to 256, which at one point stopped YouView viewers from accessing some services that BT and TalkTalk were offering as part of their packages. In the end, a number of streamed channels, but only those operated on the platform through YouView shareholder Arqiva, were made available to users.
BT TV: slow road to success?
Despite BT TV having been around in various guises over the years, the service is only just starting to gain recognition, with BT TV channel numbers starting to appear in listings magazines and in channel promotions, although in most cases TalkTalk, which uses the same YouView platform also offers these services on the same channel numbers, but isn't promoted.
Up to now, BT TV is the only service to offer a dedicated linear UHD channel.
BT TV suffers from a restricted number of channels beyond BT's own channels, including its UHD channel and the AMC from BT drama channel. The telecoms giant has had a rocky ride with Sky and although it agreed commercial terms to carry Sky Sports 1 and 2, all other Sky Sports channels are missing and there are no Sky entertainment channels. At the beginning of March, BT TV users lost entertainment channel Fox and lifestyle channel Home moved from BT TV's subscription pack to being a Freeview channel. TCM was then added, filling part of the void. The loss of Fox also affected subscribers of Plusnet TV, operated by the Yorkshire based BT subsidiary.