YouView CEO Richard Halton on how the cloud and Alexa will change TV
Read the PCMag Article here here.
YouView’s had a quiet but steady rise since its launch in 2012. Live in almost 3 million UK homes, the connected TV platform blended digital terrestrial TV with online catch up years before Freeview did, giving people a taste of the pay TV experience without needing a contract.
Well, in theory anyway; the majority of those 3m boxes are ones bundled with BT TV and TalkTalk TV packages, but if you wanted a contract free experience, there’s nothing stopping you from getting a YouView box ‘SIM free’.
Last week the company announced that updates to its various boxes would now be forked, with the likes of BT, TalkTalk and Plusnet taking a more hands-on role in terms of rolling out updates in tandem with the unbranded vanilla YouView hardware – not unlike how Android updates are handled by Google and the various OEMs.
Before that, YouView announced that it was one of three worldwide TV platforms to collaborate with Amazon on Video Skills for its wildly popular voice assistant, Alexa and before that, the company had finished updating all set-top boxes to a new cloud-powered interface.
PC Mag UK caught up with YouView’s CEO Richard Halton to see how the work with Amazon was progressing, ask how being able to talk to your TV might change things besides setting recordings, as well as expand on points he made in McMedia – new dogs learn old tricks?, republished here with permission.
We also talked about GDPR, what a cloud-powered UI means for us viewers and that age-old question – when will Amazon Prime Video come to YouView?
One thing I wanted to ask you about off the bat is Alexa and your work with Amazon. It was announced a while ago and the potential for that to change everything is obviously massive. In your McMedia article, you talk about advertising and virtual partnerships. As well as Alexa letting people set recordings by essentially talking to their TV, will this help power things like recommendations?
Yes. If you start a step further back, and think about Alexa in the context of what YouView is, because I think that’s probably relevant and it’ll help you with your questions about what we put on the forums [about software updates across the YouView platform].
If you think about YouView as a connected TV platform and what it is, clearly from a consumer point of view, it’s what you see on a TV screen, it’s a user interface. But actually, with the next gen update, YouView’s more powerfully a sort of back end. It’s the cloud piece that’s powerful and it’s powerful for a couple of reasons. One is that we host the metadata that describes all of the content on the service, be that BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Netflix, BT, TalkTalk, Now TV… that’s an extraordinary repository of information about content in terms of titles, characters and so on.
That’s been there since day one of YouView; it’s now hosted in the cloud. That’s powerful, because when you introduce new concepts like voice search, the first problem that most people have is, certainly with respect to TV, is ‘Hang on, we don’t have the metadata.’ It’s not easy to access. It’s very hard to bring new interfaces into play.
So for us voice is a natural extension of what we do already, because it plays to our natural strengths, the fact that we have aggregated metadata sat behind everything.
From our point of view, how that then is populated on a UI, or any surface through voice, or whatever else is interesting, is constantly changing. But the infrastructure bit, the hard bit is done and up to date.
So this is really the icing on the cake, in terms of accessing content.
Yeah, and it sort of depends as to your view of how important voice is going to be. If you were at CES, you might have Google and Amazon fight a kind of media strategy where Google spent tens of millions of pounds on display advertising, just in Vegas, just over the five days of the show. The last display campaign we did for YouView was in the low single figure millions for a two month national campaign. And they managed to blow $30-40m in one week in one city!
It’s a shame the power went out then…
Exactly! So, they’ve clearly decided, this is an important battle between them and Amazon, they clearly believe that voice is important. Where we are on that, two or three years ago, I was quite negative about voice. It was something that I always thought was always a little bit over-hyped. It was actually when we played with the first Alexa device the whole team was like [snaps fingers] ‘This is it. This is the game-changing moment.’
Whether that then becomes how five, ten or fifty percent of people control their TV experience is another thing, we’ll have to wait and see.
If you’re Google and Amazon, you’re probably going to see this as the equivalent of the browser wars of the late 90s, you know there’s going to be a Netscape, an AOL, a Yahoo, and it looks like they’ve decided that they’re going to carve it up between the two of them. So strategically for us, it was important to go early with voice, because it does feel like a new frontier for control. Again, we’ve got the infrastructure that allows us to do it. And to your earlier point, actually it allows you to do some very cool things that are quite hard to do with a remote control and a shared screen, i.e. personalisation.
That’s always been one of the problems facing broadcasters and content curators: Who is watching? You can have separate logins with Netflix, which is fine for a personal device, but TVs are generally not personal.
Sure. And logging in and out of profiles is sub-optimal. Who wants to log in to anything, even if it’s just clicking a picture. And more often than not, there’s more than one of you in the room.
We’ve been looking, and continue to look, at a whole different set of techniques and voice is nice because you can have individual speaker identification, so you’d know who it is who is asking for their favourite shows, whether that’s a six-year old or their parents. There are other techniques as well that you can blend with voice.
So for example, we quite like the idea that you can deliver personalisation in a really simple way, through time and context-based recommendations. You can use machine learning techniques.
Why does your TV always turn on at the last channel you were watching? It’s crazy. If you turned your TV on in the morning to watch breakfast news, why is it that every night at 8:00pm when you get in, your TV puts on BBC News? Even though every day for the last however many years, you immediately change the channel. It’s just crazy. So there’s scope for techniques around time-based personalisation and then there’s machine learning. In the same way that Facebook is designed in such a way so that within a few clicks or taps, it can guess whether you’re male or female, give it a few more taps, it can probably guess how old you are.
At an event last night, Susie Buckridge [YouView’s Director of Product and Business Development] led a discussion about using GPS in phones to determine who was in front of the TV. There’s a little demo we’ve built where your YouView box knows who is in the room, because it can pick up phones via Bluetooth. This allows you to walk into the room from the living room to the kitchen or wherever, and the YouView hardware in that second room will notice the signal and let you pick up where you left off.
There’s other techniques you can play around with like WiFi interruption, so your router can sense, a bit like in Star Wars, there’s a disturbance in the force.
Because people’s bodies are blocking the signal.
Right. You can work out how many people are in the room. Part of the benefit of partnering with BT and TalkTalk, is that that sort of technique would rely on access to a router. But this is all about two or three years out. The nice thing about voice is that it’s here, there’s a partnership with Amazon.
Our point is the Googles and Amazons of this world have a very good story around the connected home. Our argument back to them is, the connected home, what does that mean? In terms of usage, we would argue that, disproportionality, the most used devices in the home, are going to be the phone and the TV.
So helping Amazon with the use cases voice needs to understand about TV, is important. So when people say something like ‘not that one, the next one’ when looking at a list of results on a UI, you need that voice interface to know what’s on the screen.
Are you actively trialling scenarios like this right now?
Yeah. And in fact the partnership with Amazon is such that their Video Skills kit as they call it, all these different commands they’ve written, we’re not writing out own skills for Amazon, and they’re adopting them in the main line of Skills. So we’re basically co-authoring a lot of that with Amazon.
So that could potentially end up being used for something like, if not Amazon’s Fire TV…
Anywhere they want. But from our point of view, why is it powerful? Well because, we’ve got close to three million homes out there, we see 350 million interactions with our boxes every day. We’re in the space of understanding our consumer’s needs. There’s another bit that they have to appreciate as well is that the broadcasters themselves have their own peccadilloes around how their brand is attributed and how content’s discovered.
The other thing we can help Amazon and Google do is navigate the challenges of the, particularly the public service broadcasters, as they’re very concerned, as you can imagine, about being lost in the world of voice and IP.
The BBC, obviously, has got to make sure that for Charter reasons its content has to be accessible.
Yes. But there’s only so far the BBC can get. For example, if they were to work with Amazon to integrate voice into iPlayer, that’s arguably a more contained challenge. The big challenge is when BBC content is out there fighting against content from all the other broadcasters, how do you ensure that when someone says ‘Show me Blue Planet’, you’ve probably worked out that they meant Blue Planet II. You’re reasonably confident that they meant the most recent episode, and if you’re really clever, you know which of the series they’ve watched already, therefore you recommend the ones they haven’t watched.
With some services that have a voice command built in, you might be able to use that to comb an EPG, which is great, but on-demand players, that’s a little different. Things like Amazon’s X-Ray for Movies [which uses IMDb data to tell you which actors are on screen], that works well on Amazon’s own service, but it won’t work on Netflix, for example. Voice on Fire TV, from launch, didn’t work on things like YouTube either.
We’re going to have the same challenge. The voice interface right now integrates against the YouView application, which is powerful, because it gives you control over the channels, everything that’s in the normal YouView UI. It gives you access to your recordings.
But there’s a step then, as you say, into Netflix or BBC iPlayer,where they need to kind of wrangle that. The way YouView works is, we hope that we’re the best way to find that great content in the first place, so hopefully by the time you’ve found the episode of Blue Planet that you’re after all you need to do is click to play, iPlayer shouldn’t have to do much more lifting than that.
Is it fair to say that rights restrictions are more of a barrier than technical ones?
I think it’s actually more about maturing and understanding of the voice capability. Are Netflix and others ready to start that integration with those voice skills? I suspect that the answer is slightly different for each of them for different reasons, but in some senses, what we hope we can do, is with Amazon and Google as well, demonstrate to all of the content providers that this is a powerful useful tool that doesn’t mitigate against their success in the future.
Are you talking to Netflix about this now?
No, because Netflix will probably end up doing their own deal with Amazon. They don’t need a little UK tech start-up to start moderating between Jeff Bezos and Reed Hastings, much as that would be a fun meeting. I’m sure that they will figure that out between themselves.
Are there any other UK broadcasters or companies you might want to partner with?
I mean, I think we represent a pretty broad sweep. We have BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 as shareholders, we have Sky on the platform in the shape of Now TV. We have STV, and then a whole range of services like Netflix, Sony Kids [Pop Fun] … from an Amazon and Google perspective, YouView’s a pretty useful partner, because we can see into all of those different content providers. Where they’re our shareholders, we represent their interests, so we’d be a benign way of settling issues around how voice search would affect prominence, and they like the UK market.
The UK market still continues to innovate ahead of other markets in the world. An organisation like ours, that has some of the BBC’s DNA and strong and deep partnerships with operators like BT and TalkTalk is pretty attractive [BT and TalkTalk are also YouView shareholders].
How does YouView compare with what’s on offer in the United States? And could you give me some other examples of how the UK market is ahead?
So in the US, you’re kind of in the grip of the cable companies. Credit where it’s due, Comcast’s X1 platform, that’s an IP platform, that’s is a real trailblazer, so I wouldn’t want to suggest that YouView is ahead of anyone else in that respect. Equally, Dish Network in the US is one of three companies that are part of the Video Skills partnership program with Amazon. We’re another one, and so is Netgem in Europe.
I’m not suggesting for a second that YouView’s the only platform in town doing this. But if you look at the UK generally, in terms of setting standards for picture quality, HD, UHD, because we’ve not been dominated by a cable network, as much as Liberty would wish that weren’t the case, this sort of pure IP, over the top environment has flourished more quickly. And in YouView’s case, we’ve worked with BT to build out the capability of their multicast network. So for example, if you watch Liverpool vs Man City on Sky over BT’s IP network on Sunday, it’s going to be a better experience than streaming it, because it’s a provisioned network.
I think that just in terms of visual design and interfaces, there’s a lot of strength in the UK. We’ve recruited, I think, an eclectic team, we’ve taken some talent from the gaming industry, for example, because they’re people who understand designing for big screens, as opposed to browsers as well as knowing how to navigate a native interface with something like a gamepad, as opposed to just building webpages. Our creative director Fani Sazaklidou has been with us since day one, she came with us from PlayStation. We’ve brought more people in from Sony.
There’s all sorts of other industries that are a little bit orthogonal to TV platforms, but are interesting. In financial services, there are a lot of techies who are frustrated building boring banking interfaces. You give them a TV service to work on and suddenly [smiles widely]. One of my favourite stories is about Richard Curtis, from when we was working on Blackadder. One thing he said he liked to do was going down the street he lived on and catching a glimpse of people watching his show through their windows, that was his biggest thrill. If you work in TV in any capacity, including in visual and UX design, you get that, if you go round to a friend’s house and see that they’re watching something that you built, they’re very passionate about it!
Coming back to a point you raised about BT’s multicast network. They recently launched two new G.fast services, which, in terms of bandwidth, are head and shoulders above what you can get with BT Infinity. They’ve got limited availability now, but they’ll be mass market things very soon. What sort of opportunities do you think this represents? Would you sell a YouView box that maybe could do more things and make better use of that bandwidth?
I think so, though saying that, my background is more in television than in networks and I think that the aspirations of the TV industry are more modest. The impact that TV has is more emotional, so it’s about great stories and actually, a really great TV service delivered in HD or even 4k, is perfectly capable in the current infrastructure. The YouView service today delivers 4k over IP using multicast. The recommendation is that you have Infinity 2, which gives you, I think, around 60Mbps, so way below the gigabit services.
Sure. Not everyone can get 60Mbps though, it depends on where they live.
No, but if your question is, how do you leverage fifteen times that bandwidth, at the moment, we’re not constrained from doing anything cool for the customer by bandwidth today, other than the footprint of the services you need for 4k. Once you get to gigabit homes, we’ve had so many conversations about VR and animated menus and stuff, and once you start pulling down that proposition, then I can imagine using more bandwidth.
We care more about quality than speed, so all networks are optimised to deliver content. We care more about packet loss than bandwidth and we have lots of instrumentation to help us understand that and deliver a better service. I like to use the analogy ‘the Internet of Electricity’, no-one boasts about how fast their electricity is. The optimum is you just plug it in and it just works.
If Power over Ethernet takes off in the home your analogy might come full circle.
We have been working on this, as you can imagine, for many months. A lot of the requirements were quite slow to arrive. People were looking at leaked draft reports, even as late as the autumn, so getting a sense of what the regulation actually meant was a task in itself. What I said in the McMedia piece about this setting a bit of a bar for the US platforms is that my expectation is that UK platforms will universally be compliant well ahead of that date. And, if the GDPR is communicated effectively to consumers, it should give people huge reassurance about how their data is used and how it’s stored.
The fact that platforms like ours can stand up and say ‘Yep, that’s us, that’s how we work,’ and others are unable to, or don’t need to frankly, ‘cause they’re not covered by the regulation, from the US platforms. That was my point mainly, it sets a usefully high bar which we will all have to comply with, for regulatory reasons and I think that then turns the spotlight on others to then come back and prove that they’ve changed. I think that it will have a positive effect.
It would affect Netflix, in the sense that it does have some customers in the UK and other EU territories though?
Yeah. I’m not well versed actually on what exactly how it applies as to whether you’re a EU-operating US company.
Or an EU-operating Chinese company. Though that’s perhaps less of an issue for YouView.
Yes, maybe, though we do quite a bit of work with China at the moment, because Huawei, of course, manufacture the TalkTalk TV boxes.
Another elephant in the room besides GPDR is Amazon Video. You’re working with Amazon on Alexa now, but what about Prime Video, will we see that this year?
It’d be nice to have the elephant in the room! There’s a list of partners we want to see on the platform… watch this space is all I can say for now.
I think maybe Amazon would like it if everyone had a Fire TV box instead.
Don’t underestimate how well structured US corporates are! There’s a strong rationale for them to have their services as widely available as possible, and if you looked at the footprint of Fire TV today, that device isn’t widely propagated enough for Amazon Video as an investment to make sense.
The USP for YouView for some time, before we built in this cloud capability, was that simple integration of that linear broadcast schedule a the same interface as all that on demand content. You can swipe forwards and back, you can search for recordings and for people who are not up for crawling around amid a load of cables, or searching for the right HDMI port on the remote, or toggling between devices, that’s a really neat package. And people still record as much, on aggregate, as people who watch content on demand, iPlayer, Netflix or whatever. Well, that’s what our data says.
Having local storage, the linear channels, having video on demand, having multicast IP, having the ability to do that in one box with one remote and one UI is attractive, and the almost-3 million homes that we’re in vindicates that.
It’s interesting to read BT’s announcement on updating boxes, the first box, the DTR-T1000 came out in 2012. It’s now 2018 and it’s still getting updates.
And it was built in 2011. Those boxes were in trial before Christmas 2011. When we built the new platform, which is the beautiful new UI that you see, with all the cloud infrastructure powering everything and the option to pass you recording list to the cloud so you can pick it up on your phone… we had to make a choice about whether we were going to build this thing in such a way that we could roll it out to every single box out there. And that was what we decided to do. At the end of the day, a lot of the goodness with that platform is in the cloud.
We try to keep as much of that running on Amazon Web Services, not have it on the lowest powered bit, which, even on the best set-top box out there is still going to be the set-top box. If the heavy lifting can be moved somewhere else and we can take a view of the boxes we have out in the market today, let’s make this available to everyone.
We first launched this in 2016, so it was only four years after those first boxes had come out, it just didn’t feel like it had been long enough to say to those people ‘We’re sorry, but you’re not getting the upgrade,’ but at the time we said that with the new rollout, we’d do a ‘good’, ‘better’, ‘best’ version of the UI. If you have the latest 4k box, you get everything and if you had the first gen box, you’d get the same UI, but the performance wouldn’t be as good.
But we’re continuing to update all box categories, we could update them every week if we wanted to.
That said, you can now see that box starting to creak a bit at the seams. So we decided that we’d to do a final upgrade feature-wise to those earliest boxes, so that they’re better than they were, and get it to a point where it’s good. They’ll still get new metadata, new shows, and maybe some of the tweaks and touches that we can put into the other boxes so that people don’t miss out entirely, but it’s motivated by a desire to not load new features on those boxes which just slows everything down.
Like OS updates on a four year old iPhone.
Exactly. Exactly that model! Added to which, we can see those older boxes churned by BT and TalkTalk at some point and they’ll be so few of them, I suspect that everyone will be upgraded to the fast lane. By which time we might have created a new ‘best’ option!
Do people who’ve been with the platform since day one appreciate that? Do they feel like they’ve been looked after?
Yeah, they do. If you go on to our forums, some of our most passionate people are the super users who post on our forums. Some of them I’ve met personally, and I say ‘For God’s sake, can’t we give you a new one?’ and some are quite stoic about it, they want to see how this thing looks on the the slowest hardware. But I think eventually, the novelty value of having an iPod Touch is over, and I think it’ll be the same with the earliest boxes.
Do you see a scenario with YouView similar to what Virgin Media’s done with its new TV box, where you can link it up with the old TiVo hardware and share recordings between those devices and effectively set up a multiroom system?
To an extent, we’ve done that already. For example, with the mobile app, you can now see your list of recordings. There’s things we’re looking at, for example, that would make the passing of content around the home redundant. If we can generate a link to your recording and we know that that link is available on a streaming service that content was originally sourced from, we can just link straight to that.
For the broadcasters, that’s quite interesting, because you’ve just turned a piece of dead media, as far as they’re concerned, because you can’t monetise it with new advertising, we could then say to ITV, ‘Every show this person’s recorded, we can then share that list with you and when they hit play it’ll take them to ITV Hub, where you can insert more relevant advertising and you can backhaul the data about usage’. The fact that you can get around rights issues and hardware costs is something we’re looking at.
Rights issues are what has stopped anything that looks like a cloud PVR taking off in this country, as far as digital terrestrial TV’s concerned. You can do things like that in the States with Plex and similar things, but you can’t do that here.
That’s why having the broadcasters as shareholders is quite useful. We can tell them that people want to watch these shows, and they’ve selected them by recording it. YouView also has watch lists, so you browse through and find something you might want to watch in the future, and you bookmark it. They’re both examples of taking the linear searches, the recordings list, or whatever it is, and turn it into a bookmark for a piece of content. If you can manage access to that bookmark across multiple devices, because you have all that information and data sat on the same cloud services, you can create that use case. Think of it as a virtual PVR rather than a cloud one, because, you’ve recorded at home 300 programmes and we can make 300 programmes available to you. Do you really care whether or not they’re streaming off of the original device you recorded them on? Probably not. That said, in terms of zapping content around the home, we’re looking at that as well. You might have a zapper box without a hard drive and you might want to watch old recordings on that.
People can be quite hoardish and possessive about recordings though. I’m certainly like that, whether it’s an old BBC4 doc about canals, or the Habsburgs or whatever…
I’m with you on that. I’ve got a recording of the London Olympic opening ceremony on my original YouView box. At some point one of the kids might go ‘It’s five hours?’ hit delete and that’ll be that.
In terms of channels that don’t have an on demand portal, although I appreciate that most of them do, would that be something you would consider offering?
We’ve done it in the sense that we have partners who were looking to do something for the first time and we’ve got quite a nice partnership with [TVPlayer owners] Simplestream. We’ve said to people to go to Simplestream. Where we don’t do something in house, we quite like having affiliate partners we can recommend.
How might Alexa change ads? Let’s say for example, I can’t stand talking meerkats, or the Go Compare singer. Could I say ‘Alexa, I hate this advert. Never show it to me again!’
That is a brilliant question and why wouldn’t ITV’s media sales division want you to make that possible?!
‘Alexa, hide all adverts.’
That’s a little harder! I don’t know, that’s a good question, at the end of the day, if it’s your goal as a sales house to deliver advertising that’s going to be meaningful for the end user, then anything the user’s prepared to do to guide you to what’s useful, is probably a good thing.
I think if it got to the point where you asked Alexa to switch off their entire business model, which is what you said with your last comment, they might get a little touchy! You might start turning on to a blank screen more often…
While a lot of people like Alexa and are invested in the Amazon ecosystem, some people aren’t and for whatever reason, some people just won’t use voice controls. In that case, are you looking at developing something like Sky’s AdSmart, where the ads you see depend on your postcode?
So we’ve built a proof-of-concept, where we splice the linear broadcast. We’ve always done that with on demand video, where the broadcasters make their own requests, and drop their own assets in, but VOD is only five per cent of viewing and it’s harder to monetise than linear. So we’ve been working with the broadcasters on proving that we can break in to the linear broadcast, drop in an ad that’s been delivered to the box over IP, report the viewing of that ad back to the broadcaster, and be in a position to make a different decision about what ad we insert by the next ad break. And more importantly, we said that dropping ads in has to be frame perfect. In fact, it could be within two or three frames and you wouldn’t notice, but engineers like a challenge, so we said frame perfect.
The last thing you want is for your Tesco ad to overrun the start of the next segment, or worse, the Tesco ad ends and you get the end slide of the Sainsbury’s ad that was already inserted. But from our point of view, the splicing into the linear broadcast was the hardest bit and we’ve proved that can work. The next bit is figuring out how you can manage the ads on the box and the insertion, which is a challenge for the media sales houses and the broadcasters. Then it’s about capturing the data about who watched it and firing that back. We’re well advanced with ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, interestingly via Sky Media, as they manage Channel 5’s ads. The idea is to have that working end-to-end with the broadcasters this year.
We’ve actually had a few conversations with the AdSmart team as well, because they’re keen to help us get it right, because they’d like to persuade other broadcasters to come on board with AdSmart as well. If we can come up with a common agreement that this is a good thing and develop it in a way that’s interoperable, that’s kind of good for everyone.
That’s interesting, especially as Sky isn’t a YouView shareholder.
The whole dynamics of this industry are fascinating at the moment. You see this whole BT-Sky content deal before Christmas, it’s us all realising, I think, that we’ve got more in common than apart. The fact that BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin, they’re reasonably well-segmented customer bases, and having the best possible offering, across the different platforms, is probably a good thing. And if you think that the challenges are coming from outside the UK, not inside, there’s a bit of a kind of rapprochement between the platforms.
Research shows BT and TalkTalk homes watch more BBC content than their Sky and Virgin Media counterparts
Read the Seenit Article here here.
The BBC’s decision to invest in the YouView TV platform has helped it secure a higher share of viewing in BT and TalkTalk homes than in Sky and Virgin Media homes, according to new research published today.
First launched in 2012 in partnership with ITV, Channel 4, Five, Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk, much of YouView’s initial development was carried out by the BBC’s Research and Development team.
Combining digital terrestrial TV channels with IPTV, video on demand and catch-up apps, the platform is used by the two ISPs to provide pay-TV channels which are streamed to the user’s YouView set top box via broadband.
With both BT and TalkTalk offering free or low-cost boxes as part of a TV, phone and broadband bundle, retail sales of set top boxes failed to match the success of the separate Freeview platform.
This lopsided sales performance has seen the BBC accused of using licence fee funds to subsidise commercial partners but today’s research suggests its initial investment and ongoing contributions are helping to draw viewers to BBC content.
Commissioned by BBC R&D and carried out by DotEcon, the research shows that: “the BBC share of linear broadcast viewing is higher on the YouView platform used in the provision of pay TV services by BT and TalkTalk than on other pay TV platforms such as Sky and Virgin Media and indeed nearly as high as on the Freeview category (which includes both Freeview Play and standard Freeview).”
BBC bosses have also faced criticism from some quarters for their 2013 decision to invest in Freeview Play which, like YouView, marries DTT and VoD content.
Reports at the time suggested the move was sparked by unhappiness within the BBC at YouView’s poor sales and a desire to have a pure-retail product which ISPs and other pay-TV firms would be unable to piggyback on.
Critics have claimed the corporation was unnecessarily duplicating its efforts, however today’s research says the twin platform approach has delivered benefits for the BBC by allowing it to ensure the “continued prominence of FTA offerings in a competitive marketplace” and providing “some influence over prominence of BBC content and the user interface in general.”
These benefits are also enjoyed by ITV, Channel 4 and Five which, like the BBC, enjoy “strategic control over the distribution and discovery of content on a platform that they all own.”
Today’s report also credits BBC R&D with speeding up the launch of HD on terrestrial TV by three years and, through its work on BBC iPlayer and Freesat, ensuring the universal availability of BBC and other Public Service Broadcaster content.
And the authors calculate that for every £1 BBC R&D spent during the 2007-2016 Charter period, it delivered a return to the UK of up to £9.