YouView is arriving this week – promising to do for connected television what Freeview did for digital television, and bring television through your broadband to the mainstream.
The service, backed by all of Britain's terrestrial broadcasters along with Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk, will bring a service that allows people to watch live TV but also bring a level of the video on demand catch-up television that is now a familiar site across many other services.
The internet protocol television (IPTV) service is aiming to be simple to use, making it as accessible to the consumer market as Freeview and the BBC iPlayer.
What is YouView?
YouView will, at least at its inception, consist of a service through a set top box, consisting of one or more tuners to allow access to linear digital channels and a connection to your broadband that will allow for an easy way to get to the wealth of catch-up television offered by BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five.
This will be presented through a 'backwards EPG' utilising the familiar electronic programme guide grid that is used by most television manufacturers, platforms and broadcasters but allowing people to go back in time to watch television that is non-live.
The connected nature of the service means that it can also offer alternative ways to get to these programmes on demand as well other tools and features that are present on the internet.
When is it arriving?
Staggeringly the service (formally known as Project Canvas) was first announced back in February 2009 when the BBC made an application to the BBC Trust to be involved with a project to bring together the major broadcasters and other partners in an IPTV solution.
The original launch date was set for 2010, but a number of problems have delayed the project significantly, and a formal announcement of the equipment is expected on July 4.
The service is expected to become available to consumers in the second half of 2012, with the precise date expected to be confirmed at the launch of the hardware this week.
Will I be able to watch programmes in HD?
The YouView FAQ insists that streamed HD programmes will be available, although that will of course be dependent on the speed of your connection.
"Of course, YouView will also have high definition, as well as the choice of pay-TV channels, and special Internet-based services," says YouView.
Who are the partners in YouView?
BBC has been a lead partner in YouView to date, but are joined in the venture by telecoms giant BT, ISP TalkTalk, network specialist Arqiva and fellow terrestrial broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Five.
How will I find programmes?
The user interface will be a key part of YouView, with the partners indicating that they will offer a "programme guide that goes backwards as well as forwards" along with a comprehensive search system.
"Viewers will also be able to simply search for the kind of programmes they like by genre, interest or locality, including films, sports and new content from the internet," explains YouView.
"Plans to offer an applications store will also give viewers new types of services and levels of interactivity with their favourite programmes."
How much will it cost?
It's important to note that this is a subscription free service – so you will only pay a one-off fee for the set-top box, or the television with integrated tuner.
"YouView set-top boxes will be available for a one-off fee, with no contract," says YouView
"They may be offered at special rates as part of new or improved broadband packages.
"To get the full range of on-demand and interactive services, viewers will need a broadband connection from their chosen internet service provider."
The announcement of the hardware on July 4 should give a more precise range, although don't expect it to be as low-priced as Freeview boxes just yet.
Why is it controversial?
The likes of Sky and Virgin Media see YouView as a platform that takes away some of their unique selling points, and are annoyed that the BBC is engaged in a platform rather than concentrating on programme making.
Major manufacturers, the most vocal of which has been Sony, are annoyed that the User Interface is being designed by YouView, rather then left up to them
This makes it much more difficult for manufacturers to 'differentiate' their products, and also makes it harder to bring in their own separate additions and services.
Sky has hinted recently, however, that its upcoming Now TV service could land on YouView, as log as it is wanted.
Will I need new equipment?
"If you can already get digital TV, you shouldn't have any problem getting YouView." Explains YouView.
"Obviously you'll need to buy the YouView box itself. But if you've already got Freeview or Freesat, your current kit will carry on working just the same, and receive all the services it gets now."
So, you'll need a YouView box and a broadband connection, along with a digital television signal.
Will there be Pay TV channels?
Yes. Paid-for services have long been included in the project. Expect movies to be available early, and look out for other major players getting involved.
"For those who want more, there'll be a huge choice of on demand and pay TV - including films, sports & US drama," confirms YouView.
With the announcement that BT Vision is to show Premier League content in 2013, there may well be a space for premium football on YouView as well.
Is it the web on my TV?
Principally no. What IPTV and YouView does is use the connection of the internet - your broadband - to stream programmes, use apps and offer other services.
Think of it in terms of applications on your mobile phone, they use the mobile connection, but they are not necessarily offering the world wide web.
There has been no mention of a browser for the service, so don't hold your breath.
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