YouView IPTV service won't launch in time for Olympics, BBC director-general says

It's a little early to stick a fork in YouView, the free-to-air IPTV service backed by the BBC and friends, but it's getting close. The service was supposed to make its long-awaited arrival with a splash during the Summer Olympics in London next month.

Now that's not going to happen, a BBC executive said.


"It's true we will not have a large number of boxes out before the Olympics," BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said, according to a Variety story. "We want a completely stable product that delivers from day one. We want people to have the same experience on YouView that they had with iPlayer."

The problem is, that's a little tough to do when you have to dole out set-top boxes that connect to digital terrestrial TV and radio online for a free IPTV service. Store shelves are not expected to be stocked with the boxes until somewhere near the end of 2012--and the Games of the XXX Olympiad start July 27. 

BBC had been optimistic about launching in time for the Olympics--a big deal everywhere, a huge deal in the U.K.--and even reported hundreds of boxes were being tested in a wide-ranging trial. But the technology inside the boxes never quite caught up to the iPlayer, the BBC's on-demand catch-up service, which continues to add features such as a catch-up function that was announced most recently.

"IPTV turns out to be quite difficult to do," Thompson was quoted as saying. "People want a TV-like experience—they don't want a search box or quirky keyboard, they want something that feels like TV but which gives them more choice and functionality."

Even companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)--both posturing in the IPTV space--"would probably say (they were not) satisfied they had found a killer solution yet," he concluded.

While BBC, a public broadcaster, is the front company for YouView, the service also is backed by ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and telecoms Arqiva, BT (NYSE: BT)  and TalkTalk Group (LSE: TALK).

As recently as last month--and certainly in February--executives from the other partners were expressing optimism that the boxes would be in the market and the launch would coincide with the lighting of the Olympic torch. Thompson has effectively doused those hopes.

For more:
 - see the Variety story

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