BT is making a further push to migrate TV customers from of its ageing Vision+ set top boxes and onto its YouView platform.
The company’s original TV service launched in 2006 and provided customers with a Windows CE powered set top box able to receive and record Freeview channels as well as providing access to a range of subscription and pay per view on-demand content.
In 2012 BT started supplying new customers with set top boxes powered by YouView, the digital terrestrial and IPTV hybrid platform it co-owns through a consortium of broadcasters including the BBC and ITV.
Although licensing issues saw the firm initially continue to provide Vision+ boxes to customers wanting to subscribe to Sky Sports, it ceased offering them in early 2015 and the service has had few updates since.
Unlike YouView boxes, the original Vision and later Vision+ boxes are unable to support third-party content apps such as Netflix, lack a HD tuner for High Definition Freeview channels and offer a more limited line-up of catch-up content.
Support for first generation devices was ended in 2014 but, despite their inability to match the content offered by YouView boxes, an undisclosed number of BT’s subscribers still access its TV service through the second generation black Vision+ boxes.
Now it’s been emerged that BT is to remove some content, including broadband delivered HD channels and the catch-up service, from the older boxes this May and is offering customers a free upgrade to the more feature-rich YouView+ box.
The offer suggests BT is planning to completely retire the Vision+ platform in the coming months, a move which is likely to lower support costs and allow BT to stop paying the BBC and ITV for catch-up content which is provided to it as a commercial service on the older boxes but supplied on YouView directly by broadcasters through dedicated player apps.
Axing the Vision+ boxes will also cut the BT Group’s number of TV platforms from three to two and will cast fresh doubt on the longterm future of the Netgem platform which powers EE TV.
Last month BT TV bosses told SEENIT that the service, which BT acquired as part of its £12bn takeover of EE, was currently being reviewed.
A small number of EE high street stores are already selling the BT TV service and BT broadband instead of their EE branded counterparts and it seems increasingly possible that BT will seek to focus on its core brand in these sectors while continuing to leverage the EE brand’s dominance in mobile.