YouView: one year on

Looks like someone has found the Television X app
Looks like someone has found the Television X app

It feels a lot longer than a year since YouView launched. The digital TV service has its first birthday today, but there is a lot more history to the service than how long it has been available to the general public.

Name changes, delays, Alan Sugar coming and going... it hasn't been an easy ride for YouView.

It was originally conceived as Project Canvas way back in 2008 as an initiative to develop a standard for IPTV in the UK.

The BBC joined the party in 2010 partnering up with the likes of ITV, BT, Channel 4 and TalkTalk, with BBC director general at the time, Mark Thompson, calling the initiative the 'Holy Grail' of public service broadcasting.

The service turned out to be as elusive as the Holy Grail, though, with Project Canvas delayed and then delayed some more, Channel 5 leaving the project only to rejoin and iPlayer stalwart Anthony Rose leaving his role in the company as CTO.

If that wasn't enough, Alan Sugar came on board at the end of 2010, decided the project wasn't ready for launch and delayed the on-sale date of what is now called YouView by a good 18 months.

YouView was always pitched as a subscription-free alternative to Sky and Virgin Media, offering decent on-demand functionality; a service that comes with the bells and whistles you expect from premium providers, coupled with an intuitive EPG, but all for free. And this is exactly what it offered when it was finally launched in July of last year.

At the time of launch, Sugar didn't exactly entice journalists with his soundbites, though, explaining that: "YouView will replace the Freeview box but the service at the moment is a template, the carcass of the real experience."

But reviews of the service at launch were solid. Our own noted: "Its development will be interesting to watch, though we do know one thing; YouView is so much nicer to use than separate apps on a smart TV."

Demand for on demand

And its development has been interesting. Since launch, YouView has found its way into 400,000 homes, amassed new on-demand apps from the likes of Sky's Now TV - a company that wasn't exactly forthcoming about YouView's launch into its space.

UKTV channels such as Dave are now on-demand through YouView, iOS and Android apps compliment the service and it has even shown its naughty side with the launch of an on-demand Television X app.

Although Lord Sugar is no longer banging the YouView drum, Carphone Warehouse founder Charles Dunstone has taken over so the service isn't short of big names to promote it.

There is still a long way to go to make its mark, though, if it is to match Virgin Media's 3 million plus subscriber base, or Sky's 10 million.

But this hasn't stopped CEO Richard Halton telling the Guardian recently that its on-demand numbers are stronger than Sky's, with 2.2 million VOD views a week.

Times are changing, though, with both the PS4 and Xbox One looking to enter the already crowded TV market, so it's a good thing that YouView has the likes of BT's Premier League deal, the promise of new internet channels and a mooted Sky price hike to keep ensure it makes it to its next birthday.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.