UK Broadband Cos Team With BBC, ITV On YouView
UK broadband companies BT Group Plc and TalkTalk Telecom Group have partnered with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to form YouView, a TV service that allows consumers to watch movies and shows anytime. BT will begin selling the YouView set-top boxes with speed guarantees next month, Bloomberg reports. The service offers more than 70 digital channels and a seven-day catch-up service for BBC, ITV, Channel 5 and Channel 4 shows in the UK. The set-top box can be purchased through a retailer for about $400. Those who sign up through TalkTalk can get the box for free. The devices go on sale at BT on October 26.
UK Broadband Cos Team With BBC, ITV On YouView
Global Showbiz Briefs: BSkyB Opens Sky Store To Nonsubscribers; Netflix Eyeing France Launch?; More;
BSkyB Opens Its Sky Store Rentals To All Broadband Users
BSkyB set a challenge today to streaming providers in the UK such as Netflix and LoveFilm by announcing it has opened its Sky Store movie rental service to anyone with a broadband connection. The service does not require a Sky subscription, meaning all users in the UK and the Republic of Ireland will have access. Sky, which is controlled by 21st Century Fox, says new films including Man Of Steel and Despicable Me 2 are available from today with other fresh titles available at the same time as they drop on DVD. Those will rent for £3.49 ($5.70) each. Library titles will go for 99p-£1.99. There are already about 1,200 movies online which can be streamed through SkyStore.com, or via NOW TV, Roku and YouView. Sky’s had success with renting movies to its existing customers with 2.1 million rentals in the third quarter.
Report: Netflix Mulls Expansion Into France
Netflix has been a long time coming to France, Europe’s third-largest market, but is the tide about to turn? According to Reuters, executives from Netflix met with the staff of French President François Hollande this week to discuss the move. Netflix is available in 41 countries including France’s neighbors to the north such as the UK, the Netherlands and the Nordic region. A French launch has been rumored over the years, but moving into the fiercely protected territory is ornery for the streaming service given a complex film-windows chronology. There is no such protection for TV series, but many U.S. shows air as much as a year later than they do in the U.S. on traditional networks like TF1. TF1 has a VOD service that offers first-run U.S. series on a one-day delay and pay-TV leader Canal Plus airs first-run series within a few days; it even launched a new channel this year on which to showcase them. But movies are hampered by rules that prohibit films from appearing on monthly SVOD services until three years after a theatrical release. Rentals via a set-top box are permissible four months after theatrical. The windows issue has long been a thorny one in France, with industry opinions divided, but discussions are ongoing. A Hollande rep told Reuters, “Netflix wanted information about the legal conditions that would affect its potential arrival in France.”
The battle between BT and BSkyB continues to mount with UK regulator Ofcom opening an investigation into the News Corp.-controlled pay-TV group on the back of a complaint brought by BT. In the claim, which BT filed in late May, the group alleges that BSkyB has engaged in an abuse of dominant position by withholding its sports channels from BT’s YouView platform unless BT supplies its own sports channels to Sky for retail on Sky’s platform. Ofcom says it believes there are reasonable grounds for suspecting an infringement under the 1998 Competition Act and will consider whether Sky has abused a dominant position under UK and/or EU law. BT and Sky have become fierce competitors especially where sports, notably soccer, are concerned. BT is in the process of acquiring ESPN’s UK and Ireland TV channels business and is launching a new Sport TV package this summer which it is offering for free to its broadband customers. BSkyB and BT share the rights to Britain’s Premiere League soccer games with the former holding 116 live matches and the latter 38. The season kicks off in August. Sky said today it considers BT’s complaint to be “entirely without merit.” Sky group director of corporate affairs Graham McWilliam added, “In long negotiations …
Discovery Networks says it has invested “millions” in the UK and Ireland launch of TLC which will go live on April 30. The channel will be available on the Sky, Virgin Media and BT platforms and also on the TalkTalk Player from YouView. The new TLC will incorporate U.S. originals like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo which it will launch into the UK and also add original British series to the mix.
The wide-ranging pact between Warner Bros and Sky announced today will see the two companies collaborate on distributing Warners’ movies across multiple platforms and boost releases and marketing in the UK and Ireland. The tie-up gives Sky’s Sky Movies channels subscription pay TV and PPV windows that will give its customers exclusive access to new Warner Bros releases about six months after their theatrical runs, and they’ll stay on Sky Movies exclusively for more than a year.
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt was the keynote speaker at the Edinburgh International TV Festival as he substituted for Shine Group founder Elisabeth Murdoch. During Friday’s MacTaggart Lecture (transcript below), given for the first time by a television industry outsider, Schmidt said Google TV plans to launch in Europe early next year, with the UK a top priority. Many more partners are expected to join the fledgling TV service soon, Schmidt said, and the company is ”absolutely committed” to its fledgling small tube business which allows viewers to mix web and television content on TV screens via a browser. He said U.S. networks who balked at Google TV earlier this year still aren’t on board, and he hopes the service won’t face a similar problem in Europe. In his keynote, Schmidt also named three trends to watch: mobile, local, and social — a nod to Google’s recent acquisition of Motorola Mobility as well as a desire to personalize TV content and services. “Soon, your typical Internet users won’t be indoors with a PC; they’ll be out and about on their cell phone,” Schmidt said. “Reflecting this, new genres of online content and services are emerging. If content is king, context is its crown. … And if you think all this is exciting, or frightening, remember, this is only the beginning. In technological terms, we’re scarcely at the end of the first act of the Internet age.” Below is the transcript of Schmidt’s speech:
I understand this is the first time the MacTaggart has been given by someone not employed in Television broadcasting or production. I’m not sure whether that means the bar has been raised or lowered, but I’ll do my best!
It’s a huge honour to be invited to speak on such a prestigious occasion, especially as an industry outsider. When he spoke here two years ago, James Murdoch described himself as the crazy relative everyone is embarrassed by. I wonder what he’d call himself now. If James is the family outcast, I’m not sure what that makes me. The geek in the corner?… the alien species?… the Android? Don’t worry though, I promise I’m not a croak-voiced dalek.
Charles Allen called the MacTaggart ‘the longest job application in the industry’. It’s very kind of you to think of me, but I’m still fully committed to Google. All that’s changed is that Larry now has the keys to the Google Tardis. I promise I’ll stop the Dr Who quips soon – although in this case it is pretty apt. We have a private joke at Google that Larry is actually from the future.
I’m especially indebted to Mark Thompson – who gave last year’s lecture – for his tips on what makes a classic MacTaggart. The recipe boils down to anger and arch-villains, impossible proposals and insults. I’m not sure about anger, but I’ll do my best to come up with the rest.
Mark even identified candidates for demonising – usually a choice between the BBC and Murdoch. I must say how refreshing it is that Google isn’t on that list!
But I don’t kid myself – I know some of you have suspicions about Google. Some of you blame us for the havoc wreaked on your business by the Internet. Some accuse us of being irresponsible, uncaring, and worse.
Today I’ll aim to set the record straight on those points, and demonstrate why we can and should be optimistic about Television’s future, if we work together. But first, a little about my industry.
Peter Fincham said this lecture is the closest most TV people get to going to church. Well, I am a tech evangelist from way back, so I’ll take any excuse to preach about the Internet.
Why the Internet matters
In less than 30 years, the Internet has grown from almost nothing to more than 2 billion users. It’s available on Mount Everest, and on the South Pole. Half of adults in the EU use it every day. It has become such a profound part of life that 4 in 5 adults worldwide now regard Internet access as a fundamental human right.
Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, says he’s upbeat over government negotiations to renew the £3.5 billion ($5.5 billion) licence fee. Talks over the next 4-year licence fee settlement, which runs 2013-16, are due to start next summer. The BBC has been having a bad time of it lately, rocked by scandals over executive pay and the amount it pays stars. Thompson, interviewed at today’s Royal Television Society International Conference in London, denied public perception of the Beeb has been damaged. If anything, he said, the public’s estimation of the BBC has gone up. The coalition government may still cut 2012’s licence fee, while the Beeb would like a 2% rise. It’s already offered to freeze this year’s licence fee. Right now every UK household pays for BBC service through a TV licence fee of £145.50 ($227).
Thompson suggested Brit TV viewers may be able to buy programmes through its new internet TV YouView service, which is due to launch spring 2011. The one-week window when viewers can watch BBC shows for free via the iPlayer will stay, Thompson said. But the director general said viewers may be able to download programmes to keep, much as you can buy BBC DVDs in shops today.
The BBC boss said the Corporation would not provide even more local news coverage. Thompson said the Corporation needs to make services it already runs better rather than expand further. Thompson was responding to UK culture secretary …
Kip Meek has been appointed non-executive chairman of Project Canvas, the joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, TalkTalk and Arqiva to create on-demand TV. Meek will step down from his consulting job at Ingenious Media. There’s been talk that Orange, the French mobile phone company, may join Project Canvas. Five dropped out earlier this month because of budget restraints.
Set to be called YouView, Canvas could transform the way we watch TV here in Britain. Canvas will convert your TV into an on-demand portal, where you can watch the output of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five whenever you want. I’m very excited about the implications of Project Canvas. In a few years’ time, I suspect the whole notion of watching linear TV channels is going to seem very quaint.
Kip Meek, head of Ingenious Media’s consulting arm, is set to be named chairman of Project Canvas later this week, according to the Guardian. Project Canvas is the groundbreaking TV service that’s being launched by the UK’s terrestrial broadcasters. Canvas declined to comment.
Meek is seen as a good choice, having been senior policy partner at communications regulator Ofcom. He also has strong ties to the government, having sat with Liz Murdoch on the Conservatives’ creative industries review panel, chaired by ex-BBC boss Greg Dyke.
“He’s a very capable bloke, especially in areas such as broadband,” one media analyst tells me.
Canvas has been rocked by Five dropping out of the project – although its programmes will still available when the service launches early 2011. Five has left the other partners – BBC, ITV and Channel 4 plus telcos BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva – to shoulder its share of the £116 million cost. Five was expected to contribute £16 million a year to help pay for Canvas. But now it’s being fattened up for sale. It may be that Five’s new owner doesn’t want to be saddled with that kind of financial commitment.
Set to be called YouView, Canvas could transform the way we watch TV here in Britain. Canvas will convert your TV into an on-demand portal, where you can watch the output of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five whenever you want. The idea of having linear TV channels could disappear completely.
BBC Trust, Auntie’s oversight body, has approved the on-demand UK digital TV service. Project Canvas will enable the BBC’s hugely-popular iPlayer service available to TVs for the first time. Canvas – which is likely to be renamed YouView – is set to launch in April 2011. The BBC and partners including ITV, Channel 4, Five, Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk will spend £116 million ($174 million) on the project over four years.
“This is essentially giving the green light to big public service broadcasters doing internet television on their terms,” says Informa senior TV analyst Julia Glotz.
The BBC has made a few not-especially-taxing provisos, however, the key one being that its investment must not bust 20% of estimated costs over five years. The BBC is set to spend £25 million ($38 million) developing Canvas.
What it means for TV viewers is watching the Beeb’s hugely popular iPlayer catch-up service through the telly, rather than on computer. Canvas will also carry the on-demand catch-up services from ITV Player, 4oD and Demand Five.
On-demand movie channels including Lovefilm are also expected to become available. And it paves the way for hundreds of specialist TV channels, ranging from motorcycling to horse-racing, being launched for enthusiasts.
Glotz says: “One of the BBC Trust’s conditions is that there will be open access to this platform, which will be in millions of homes.”
Melanie Bloomfield, broadband media analyst at Screen Digest, warns that with so many new services, viewers may not be able …