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Ofcom will not probe YouView... for now

Too early to judge unlaunched platform's impact, says watchdog

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UK communications watchdog Ofcom has decided it doesn't need to investigate Project Canvas, despite cable broadcaster Virgin Media's claim that the putative online telly standard is anti-competitive.

However, Canvas - which will go live next year as YouView - was tacitly warned that Ofcom will act if it blocks rival platforms and services in future.

Canvas aims to develop a standard framework from which broadcasters and other providers can build TV-accessible online services, such as BBC iPlayer, and which hardare makers can incorporate, safe in the knowledge that all such services will be compatible with their kit.

Compare that to the current situation where services need to be implemented on different hardware products in different ways. So if the BBC wants to put iPlayer on Sony tellies, that has to be a separate development project from putting the service on, say, Samsung TVs, Microsoft games consoles or Humax set-top boxes.

Virgin's beef - shared by Sky - is that this acts as a disincentive for service providers to deploy their offerings on other platforms. Arguably, this is true, because doing so involves extra work for the service provider, something that is always a disincentive. We'd say that's an incentive for Virgin and others to get on board.

Virgin also grumbled that the YouView specs have not been shared with non-members - well, duh - and that use of the YouView branding mandates the use of a specific UI and EPG. This is a fair point, and one YouView will need to consider if it's to avoid falling foul of Ofcom in future.

Ofcom's response to Virgin's complaint is that it's simply premature to new judge the impact of YouView on services that don't support it. YouView needs to complete its specification and licensing terms before Ofcom can assess whether the platform's Ts&Cs are anti-competitive.

"If YouView did lead to its partners restricting the supply of video on demand content to rival firms, this could lead to consumer harm and may well generate competition concerns," said Ofcom.

"But at the present time, there is little evidence that YouView’s partners are likely to withhold content as a result of their involvement in the project. Given the possibility that harmful effects might emerge later, Ofcom will, nonetheless, keep the content syndication policies of the YouView partners under review."

So, keep going, YouView, but we have our eyes on you. ®

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