Last updated

YouView TV Ltd.
Type Limited company
Industry Television broadcasting
PredecessorProject Canvas
FoundedSeptember 16, 2010;10 years ago (2010-09-16) in London, England, UK
Founder BT Group
HeadquartersLondon, England, UK
Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
Simon Duffy, Chairman
Susie Buckridge, CEO
Products Television software, set-top boxes
Services IPTV, electronic programme guide, video on demand, digital video recording
Owner BT Group
TalkTalk Group
Channel 4
Channel 5

YouView is a hybrid television platform in the United Kingdom developed by YouView TV Ltd., a partnership of four broadcasters, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5; and three telecommunications operators, Arqiva, BT Group and TalkTalk Group.


YouView provides access to free-to-air digital terrestrial television (DTT) channels from Freeview using an aerial connection, and to TV on demand ("catch-up TV") services using a broadband internet connection. YouView PVR set-top boxes are sold at retail, or built into certain Sony Bravia TV sets, and the service has no contract or subscription. BT and TalkTalk both use YouView software for their subscription services BT TV, Plusnet's 'YouView TV from Plusnet', and TalkTalk TV, and provide their own additional offerings to their subscribers through their own branded YouView set-top boxes.

The platform was formed from an ambitious project between the UK's four terrestrial broadcasters that started in 2008, originally titled Project Canvas. [1] The project went through difficulties due to regulatory approvals and fears of it being anti-competitive. After a long delay it finally launched on 4 July 2012. [2]


The YouView hardware is a digital terrestrial television DVB-T2 HD set-top box that provides viewing and recording of all free-to-air channels available on digital terrestrial television in the United Kingdom. There is no access to some streamed channels in the 225–256 range on Freeview, [3] as YouView lacks support for the MHEG-5 integration channel used by these channels to provide them over IP.[ clarification needed ]

Additional content is provided over a broadband internet connection, with channels that can be viewed and recorded in the same way as the free-to-air channels and can also be accessed via the YouView menu and EPG via the search function. On demand players vary as rentals, on demand, subscription and catch-up (correct as of 2020): [4] [5]

On 29 July 2013 it was revealed that the YouView partners intended to launch the service on smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs, three days after BSkyB announced the £10 Now TV set-top box which streams on demand content. [8]

YouView from BT

BT Infinity subscribers can access additional live IPTV channels via the YouView EPG. Customers who subscribe to BT TV will receive either a YouView+ (YouView plus) box (with recording capabilities), or a standard YouView box (no recording capabilities), or a YouView Ultra HD box – depending on the subscription type taken. They can then view on-demand content through the BT TV Player. [9]

YouView from Plusnet

Plusnet 'Unlimited Fibre' customers can subscribe to Plusnet's 'YouView TV from Plusnet' service, with provision through both the full range of available Freeview channels and by channels live-streamed through the Internet (IPTV), in both Standard Definition and High Definition. Subscribers choose either a standard YouView box or YouView+ box, the latter with the ability to pause and rewind live TV, and a recording capacity of up to 150 hours of HD, or 300 hours of SD Freeview, Entertainment and BT Sport Lite channels, which are included as standard. Both boxes also provide access to the 'on demand' players from the main broadcasters: BBC iPlayer, the ITV Hub, All 4 and My 5. [10]

YouView from TalkTalk

A free YouView box is provided to TalkTalk Plus or Essentials customers taking out a fixed term contract and allow access to the content previously available from TalkTalk TV. Content that TalkTalk provides, such as film rentals and box sets, are available from the TalkTalk Player application within the YouView menu bar. In the TalkTalk Player, there are 'boosts' that customers can buy for a minimum of one month, and customers can watch and record them from the main guide the same as Freeview channels. These boosts range from Sky premium channels, sports, TV box sets, films, and foreign language channels. TalkTalk use their own brand of Huawei-manufactured boxes, with the TalkTalk logo on the front, a remote control with a direct button on the TalkTalk Player, and a 320  GB hard drive for Plus TV customers. Essentials customers cannot record, but can still pause live TV. Unlike BT, customers do not need a fibre broadband package to access the service.


The original purpose of YouView was to combine web streamed television and traditional television together in one box. The service was initially marketed as those who do not have an existing subscription to Sky, Virgin or BT TV. One of YouView's features is the electronic programming guide (EPG) that can scroll backwards up to 7 days and that integrates directly with the respective channel's catch-up service. [11]

Freeview has since launched a similar, competing platform called Freeview Play. [12]

Technical information

On 14 April 2011, YouView published its final core technical specification. [13] The minimum specifications for a YouView-enabled digital terrestrial television (DTT) high-definition (HD) digital video recorder (DVR or PVR) product require: [14]

Analogue HD outputs are forbidden as part of the rights management strategy.

The specifications will evolve over time to reflect different devices, including non-PVR and Freesat variants.

Set-top boxes

Set-top boxes available for the YouView service:

Note 1: each YouView box comes in a variety of hard disk storage sizes, and is often designated by ModelNo/StorageSize – e.g. DTR-T1000/500GB

Note 2: each YouView box does not have support for Wi-Fi, and must connect directly to the router or through power-line adapters. YouView have not allowed Wi-Fi in their software, [24] so USB Wi-Fi dongles will not work – however YouView suggest the use of a third-party (not supplied by YouView) Wireless Ethernet Bridge product may work, see YouView support for updated information.

Note 3: YouView+ has become the designated way to show the set-top box records TV programmes. This is because of services offered by TalkTalk TV. [25]

History and development

Project Canvas was initially announced as a partnership between the BBC, BT and ITV plc, following the failure of Project Kangaroo, a proposed video-on-demand service offering content from BBC Worldwide,, and Channel 4's 4oD, which was blocked in February 2009 on competition grounds, and only led to the short lived SeeSaw service. The Project Canvas proposal was published by the BBC a few weeks after Kangaroo's cancellation. Canvas differed from Kangaroo in that it was a proposed TV platform (a device that would deliver internet-connected TV), rather than a video-on-demand service (that would act as a single content portal, much like the music video equivalent VEVO).

On 30 July 2009, Project Canvas announced that Five had signed up to the project. [26] On 9 July 2010, Five announced that it would not pursue further involvement in Project Canvas, pending a review of its digital investment strategy. On 24 August 2010, Five re-joined Project Canvas, following their acquisition by Northern & Shell. [27] On 16 December 2009, Project Canvas announced that Channel 4 and TalkTalk had also signed up to the project. [28] On 22 March 2010 transmission firm Arqiva joined as an equal partner in the project. [29]

On 17 May 2010 the then Project Canvas director Richard Halton said: "We have also put out an invitation for an eighth partner, and we would like a company that can add scale and expertise to the platform. It is a question of finding an organisation that shares the aims of the venture." [30] It was later reported that, EE, the UK operations of Orange and T-Mobile, had decided against joining, after holding advanced discussions. [31]


On 23 July 2010 Kip Meek was announced as the non-executive chairman of Project Canvas. [32] Meek left YouView on 7 March 2011, and was replaced by Alan Sugar with immediate effect, [33] who was brought on board by Channel 5's Richard Desmond. [34] The move was partly based on his experience with set-top boxes, in particular that of Sky, and partly due to his likely influence in retaining confidence in the various partners. [35] Alan Sugar stepped down as Chairman in March 2013 following a "boardroom bust-up" with Desmond, [36] with TalkTalk group chairman Sir Charles Dunstone taking on the chairmanship as an interim position. [37] In October 2013 Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment chairman Simon Duffy was named as non-executive chairman of YouView on a permanent basis. [38]


On 13 November 2009, BBC Future Media and Technology director Erik Huggers previewed the work-in-progress user interface that could power the Project Canvas at C21 Media's FutureMedia conference in London. [39] The mock-up of how the Beijing Olympic Games would look on Canvas allowed users to watch highlights instantly, send clips to friends, monitor what's being said on Twitter, access archives at the touch of a button, and use commercial third party applications and services.

Morgan Stanley compiled a creative analysis for BT about the potential impact of Canvas, describing it as "Freeview 2.0". [40] As Canvas was to be an open platform, Stanley's report noted that content providers would no longer need to pay the current sum of around £10m for capacity on digital terrestrial television to reach their target audience.

On 22 March 2010, the Project Canvas partners submitted analysis to the Office of Fair Trading setting out why the proposed Canvas joint venture does not constitute a qualifying merger under the Enterprise Act 2002. [29] On 19 May 2010, the OFT confirmed that it would not investigate Project Canvas over competition issues. [41] As none of the partners were contributing a "pre-existing business" to Project Canvas, the OFT ruled that it "did not have the jurisdiction" to investigate the venture on competition grounds. The OFT stated "Unlike in the Project Kangaroo joint venture which was blocked by the Competition Commission in 2009, it is not proposed that the joint venture partners will contribute any video-on-demand content or other business to [Project] Canvas, and Canvas will have no role in aggregating, marketing or directly retailing any such television content". Project Canvas was formally approved by the BBC Trust in June 2010.

In May 2010 the Financial Times reported that the name YouView was the most likely brand for the service, having been registered as intellectual property (IP) by the group of broadcasters in April. [42] [43] On 16 September 2010 YouView TV Ltd was incorporated, and the product branded under the YouView name. [44] At the same time, Richard Halton was appointed as CEO of YouView TV Ltd, having previously served as programme director for Project Canvas.

On 16 September 2010 a 'Notice of threatened opposition' was filed against YouView with the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO). [45] Robin Fry, an intellectual property partner at law firm Beachcroft LLP, said that the site's similarity to YouTube could cause consumers to confuse the two brands. The use of the world 'You', coupled with a capitalised character in the middle of the word, might suggest a connection between the services. If Google did object, it would be highly likely to win any legal action, according to Fry. "Google is involved in litigation all over the world, and would not be frightened of taking action against this trademark. It has a clear interest in protecting its trademarks to stop them being diluted", he said. [46]

Originally slated to launch in 2010, then early 2011, it was announced on 7 February 2011 that YouView would be delayed to 2012 due to technical issues. [47] An "early 2012" launch was also not possible.

On 14 April 2011, YouView announced additional hardware partnerships with Vestel, Pace plc, Huawei, and Manhattan. [13] On 13 May 2011, Technicolor, one of the original set-top-box hardware manufacturing partners decided to withdraw from the project. [48] The six remaining manufacturers at that point were Humax, Huawei, Pace, Manhattan, Vestel, and Cisco.

TalkTalk began running an in-house trial at the beginning of February 2012 to prepare for the launch. [49] YouView formally launched on 4 July 2012, just in time for the London 2012 Olympics. [50]

Regulatory approval and controversy

Following the BBC's proposal in February 2009, there have been comments by a number of organisations and companies which have been published by the BBC in a 392-page document. [51] The BBC Trust reached its provisional conclusions following more than 800 written responses, green lit in December 2009. [52]

On 25 June 2010, the BBC Trust gave final approval to the BBC's involvement in Project Canvas, stipulating a number of conditions. [53] The Trust concluded that Project Canvas will deliver significant public value for licence fee payers, and that the Trust shall review the BBC's involvement in Canvas against the conditions of its approval, twelve months after launch of Canvas to consumers. The Digital TV Group (DTG) welcomed the decision and announced it would work with the partners and DTG members to develop the UK specification for Connected TV devices and services to form the 7th edition of the DTG D-Book. [54]

Objections to the approval

A spokesman for Virgin Media said: "We are disappointed the BBC Trust has approved Canvas and ignored the significant concerns raised by the commercial sector about the proposal. Our position on this matter remains unchanged. As it stands, Canvas will severely restrict competition and innovation and ultimately this will harm consumers". A spokesman for British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) said: "The BBC's involvement in Canvas is an unnecessary use of public funds. The BBC Trust's announcement is a predictable decision from a body that has shown little inclination to think independently or set meaningful boundaries on the BBC's activities". [55]

The UK's Intellect Technology Association, said in a submission to the BBC Trust that Project Canvas risks isolating the UK as a "technological island" in a global market by trying to create a standard IPTV set-top box for just the UK. [56]

BSkyB continuously strongly criticised the project funding, saying that public money will be used to give public service broadcasters a foothold in the valuable IPTV, to the disadvantage of "the private sector". [57] [58] [59] [60] [61] [62] It was reported BSkyB was likely to raise state aid complaints if it appears that the BBC is shouldering the costs of developing the venture for its partners. [63] Sky estimated that it would lose four percent of revenue as a result of the project. [64]

On 4 March 2010, The Daily Telegraph learned that Neil Berkett, Virgin Media's chief executive, would tell the Cable Congress in Brussels "the BBC Trust's consultation has been a shameless whitewash that contravenes almost every principle of good regulation." [65] Berkett objected to proposals to force all broadcasters to use a single 'Project Canvas' brand controlled by the BBC and its partners, which he claimed would have penalised commercial rivals. On 28 April 2010, Neil Berkett confirmed that Virgin Media had made a submission to the Office of Fair Trading over Project Canvas, [66] stating "Canvas needs to be an open platform but it is closed and will require a [second] dedicated set-top box." He added that he considered it a misuse of the licence fee to create a product that was not accessible to all the public. "It is funded by the BBC licence fee and should be available everywhere, on a Virgin Box, a PS3 and even a Sky box.".

On 14 June 2010, Neil Berkett revealed to The Guardian that "Far from trying to block the development of these open standards, we have offered to work commercially with Canvas to explore mutually beneficial ways in which we could incorporate them as a self-contained service in the next generation of Virgin Media set-top boxes." [67]

On 19 April 2010, 3view managing director John Donovan has said that he is "concerned" about the potential market impact of IPTV joint venture Project Canvas. [68] "The honest answer is that no-one has spoken to me from the BBC about what Canvas will entail. We do not understand what Canvas's remit will be and we do not subscribe to the belief that Canvas will provide something the commercial market can't. We have proved that we can do it," he told Digital Spy. Donovan declined to be drawn on whether 3view would consider a legal challenge to Canvas, but did say that his business will defend its ability to compete in the market.

Ofcom complaints

On 3 August 2010, Virgin Media lodged a complaint with Ofcom claiming that Project Canvas is an anti-competitive cartel that will crush the nascent online TV market. [69] The cable TV company, which is also calling on the Office of Fair Trading to step in on the grounds that the venture breaches the Competition Act, argues that the six partners backing Project Canvas have not stuck to their stated pledge of creating a set of open standards for delivering next-generation TV services. Virgin Media has also complained that Project Canvas has wrongly rejected what the company considers fair offers of integrating the technology into its own set-top boxes with a compromise on user interface. [69]

On 18 August 2010, IP Vision formally complained to Ofcom, calling on the regulator to examine the impact Project Canvas will have on innovation, competition and consumer choice. [70] IP Vision is challenging the validity of Project Canvas, under the 1998 Competition Act.

On 30 August 2010, Six TV, the largest holder of analogue television restricted service licences in the UK (none of which are in use), announced that it would formally request a full Ofcom investigation of Canvas, warning that it could be a "poison pill" for regional broadcasters. [71] Six TV will also submit its complaint regarding Canvas – which includes broader concerns regarding anti-competitive practices affecting digital television transmission in the UK – to the Office of Fair Trading. Six TV also intends to lobby communications minister Ed Vaizey. On 9 September 2010, United For Local TV an umbrella group which represents five local broadcasters with restricted service licenses (including Six TV), asked Ofcom to investigate the Project Canvas connected-TV venture on competition grounds. [72]

On 13 September 2010, the Open Source Consortium, the UK trade body for organisations working in Open Source Software, submitted a formal objection [73] to Ofcom asking it to investigate the project. [74] [75] In its submission to the media regulator, the OSC said that Canvas will have "adverse consequences" for the device and software sector by "diminishing consumer choice and causing inevitable consumer harm".

On 24 September 2010, ISBA – the trade body representing advertisers, joined a growing list of parties asking Ofcom to investigate YouView. [76] ISBA director of media and advertising Bob Wootton believes that the project could represent a "quasi-monopoly". Wootton also claimed that the BBC Trust's recent consultation on Canvas/YouView was "insufficient" for a platform that would carry advertising.

On 28 September 2010, Electra Entertainment – a UK-based IPTV service provider, complained to media regulator Ofcom that YouView will "damage" the UK's interactive TV sector. [77] Electra at the time developed an IPTV platform called Trove which brought media services to the TV screen through Tesco-branded Freeview set top boxes. Electra believes that "the proposed vision, shareholder structure and aims of YouView are anti-competitive and significantly damage the UK interactive TV market".

On 13 October 2010, British Sky Broadcasting submitted a last-minute complaint to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading. [78] News of Sky's move prompted an angry reaction from the YouView chief executive, Richard Halton, "While we welcome justifiable scrutiny, the timing of this submission is clearly designed to extend the regulatory process in pursuit of commercial self-interest rather than the public interest". [79]

On 19 October 2010, Ofcom announced that it will not open an investigation into Project Canvas (YouView) under the Competition Act following complaints made by Virgin Media and IPVision. [80] Ofcom also received submissions from 11 other parties, including BSkyB. The regulator said that it is "premature" to open an investigation into YouView, as "whether or not YouView and its partners will harm competition in the ways alleged will depend upon how this emerging market develops and how they act, particularly in relation to providing access to content and issuing technical standards". [81] Ofcom noted that there is "little evidence" at this stage that YouView partners the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 plan to restrict access to their video on-demand content.

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