Sky Complains To Ofcom About YouView, But Plays Down Its Impact

Vincent Teoh

It appears that British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) is feeling threatened by the imminent arrival of the YouView IPTV (internet protocol television) platform, judging from a couple of events that took place last week.

YouView was previously known as Project Canvas before adopting its new brand identity in September this year. Backed by seven partners including 4 UK broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5) and 3 telecommunications companies (BT, TalkTalk, Arqiva), YouView plans to deliver video-on-demand (VoD) initially to Freeview users, allowing them to download and watch TV programmes over broadband internet connections on their television sets.

The widespread availability of another (relatively inexpensive) source of on-demand TV entertainment may persuade existing Sky customers to cancel their subscriptions, and impact on the company’s revenue. So it came as no surprise when BSkyB submitted a last-minute complaint to Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on the 13th of October about how the existence of YouView would suppress competition in the video-on-demand market.

What was slightly disturbing was the timing of BSkyB’s submission. It is believed that Sky informed Ofcom in the middle of a board meeting that it was putting together the paperwork to lodge a complaint about YouView. And the objective of the board meeting (conveniently interrupted by BSkyB) was no other than to decide whether to launch a formal investigation into the YouView venture. The decision will most likely be deferred, as Ofcom will need to evaluate Sky’s objections in depth before ruling if a formal probe into YouView is necessary.

Despite lodging a formal complaint to Ofcom and the OFT, Sky has attempted to play down the impact YouView is going to have in the UK TV sector. In an exclusive interview with UK technology news website TechRadar, Delia Bushell – director of broadband and telephony at BSkyB – claimed that the premium price point of YouView set-top boxes would confine the IPTV platform to being a niche service.