BT prepping YouView takeover

BT is reportedly taking long-anticipated further action towards taking over YouView, the platform that powers its TV service. The move would involve buying out other shareholders including the BBC and TalkTalk from their shares in the service.

Rumours about BT's plans to take full control of YouView first surfaced in March 2016 and followed a move by the terrestrial broadcasters to cut their stake in the joint venture.

YouView was launched after significant delays back in 2012 as a next-generation Freeview service in association with all of the main UK terrestrial broadcasters, plus BT and TalkTalk. BT has used YouView to replace its own original BT Vision service and together with TalkTalk has aggressively pushed YouView-based TV bundles to offer subscribers so-called triple play bundles of phone, broadband and TV in a bid to gain market share from pay TV giant Sky. BT has also given subsidary Plusnet access to YouView.

As a result, YouView is mostly used by pay TV users, leaving the terrestrial broadcasters to move to Freeview Play for a second attempt at a second generation Freeview service.

Reports say BT wants to buy out the other shareholders (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Arqiva, TalkTalk) for £60 million, in order to accelerate development of new features on the platform. The BBC is however concerned about licence fee money effectively having subsidised what will be a BT platform and whether or not 'public service features' providing improved accessibility for visually impaired viewers would continue to be developed under BT control. Back in 2014, the BBC Trust advised BBC management in a report that they should "carefully review" their stake in platforms such as YouView.

Update: TalkTalk's YouView-based service would not be affected by the planned BT takeover, according to sources.

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