The length of the deal kills off claims that the UK’s free to air broadcasters are unhappy with how the platform is developing or that they believe it’s been ‘hijacked’ by TalkTalk and BT.
If either of these claims were true they could’ve either quit at the end of the current deal or insisted on a shorter term which allowed them to reassess things in a year or two.
By backing YouView until 2019 they’re sending a very strong and impossible to ignore message that they’re happy both with what’s been developed to date, and with what they know is coming in the months and years ahead.
It also means YouView has the space to develop to full potential before its next funding round has to be agreed.
The platform is already more refined and feature-rich than it was at launch thanks to the addition of internet channels from BT and TalkTalk, the arrival of additional on-demand players and the introduction of market-leading accessibility options.
And the word from inside its Thames-side HQ is that much more is coming later this year and beyond.
Within a few months the BBC’s Connected Red Button will arrive – an addition which’ll help better differentiate YouView from the cheap generic Freeview PVRs that line supermarket shelves.
CRB is an important milestone for YouView, it’ll be the first service to use unicast internet streaming – live video streams which can be offered to all users regardless of their broadband supplier.
The current internet channels available on YouView can only be viewed over BT or TalkTalk broadband because they use a managed form of streaming called ‘multicast’ which requires a specially enabled connection.
These channels work very well but the closed nature of them is partly behind the Guardian’s repeated assertion that the platform has been captured by the two ISPs.
When unicast is available, YouView will be able to market itself to other content owners.
This means not only the likes of the National Theatre being able to retail their own channels directly and NOW TV finally being able to offer its entertainment pack, but opens the door to resellers such as the now defunct TopUp TV to sell bundles of channels.
Unlike the internet channels available on a tiny number of Freeview boxes, such as those from VuTV, the unicast YouView channels will allow you to record, pause and rewind programmes and will appear fully in the EPG rather than being hidden away behind a portal.
It’s the failure to understand the opportunities YouView offers content providers and the full implications of its open nature which leads to the Guardian claiming the ISPs have mounted some kind of coup.
Far from using the BBC’s, ITV’s and Channel 4’s cash to create an exclusive pay-TV platform, BT and TalkTalk are part-funding a service which rivals will soon come along and benefit from.
They’ll find themselves competing with other brands retailing the same selection of channels they offer, potentially cheaper and on more flexible terms, on a platform they helped create and on boxes they subsidised.
How many BT customers will renew their £7 per month subscription if they have the option of seamlessly switching to NOW TV’s bundle of 10 channels – including Sky Atlantic – for £5?
How many might drop its box sets add-on if Netflix or Amazon Instant Video – which offer bigger libraries – become available on the same box?
It’s when customers have these choices that the true nature of a modular free/pay hybrid platform will become obvious – even to the Guardian.
Those who leapt to believe the paper’s now disproven claims of a broadcaster walk out might want to be more questioning in future.
Could the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 really have embarked on the project with BT and TalkTalk without knowing that the ISPs would initially dominate sales?
For that to be true they’d have to ignore that all pay-TV services in the UK give away set top boxes and be blind to human nature – heightened during recessionary times – to seek out the best, cheapest deal.
The choice is between believing that four of Europe’s biggest broadcasters got it disastrously wrong, or that a paper which is developing a reputation for having a clear anti-YouView agenda allowed its excitement to get the better of it.
Only one of these passes the ‘remotely plausible’ test.