Ofcom has given its
blessing to YouView – the BBC, TalkTalk and BT backed service - which aims to
bring video on-demand to Freeview and Freesat viewers.
The decision overules
objections from rival companies, including Virgin Media and BSkyB, who argued the
venture, formerly known as Project Canvas, is an anti-competitive cartel that will stifle the emerging video on-demand
Ofcom received submissions
from 12 parties. Objectors argued that YouView partners could withhold content
from rival video on-demand platforms and that the technical standards have not
been developed openly.
However, the watchdog argued
that since YouView was launching into an emerging market it would be hard to
know the impact of the venture on the market ‘with any confidence for some time’.
The regulator added: ‘It is
likely that YouView will bring benefits to viewers and consumers.Any
potential harm to competition would need to be offset against these benefits.’
However Ofcom said it will ‘keep
the content syndication policies under review’, adding that there is not a 'sufficiently material risk' at this stage to justify an
investigation over the availability of technical standards.
Ofcom chief executive, Ed
Richards said: ‘Ofcom's view is that consumers' interests will not be served by
opening an investigation. It would be premature at the current stage of
YouView's development given the absence of a clear risk of consumer harm. But
if evidence does emerge in the future that YouView causes harm to the interests
of viewers and consumers we may reconsider whether to investigate.’
YouView chief executive
Richard Halton said: ‘We have been clear throughout this process that YouView
will stimulate competition in the TV platform market and create opportunities
for content providers and device manufacturers.
'In a market dominated by pay
services, we are creating the only mass market IPTV service that will be
subscription free. All our efforts are now focused on launching a brilliant
consumer product for launch next year. We look forward to broadening our
engagement with wider industry partners over the coming weeks and months.’
The decision means YouView will
launch in the first half of next year. Initially it will target the seven million Freeview
households that have broadband access.
Other partners in YouView include Arqiva, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.