By Julian Clover
October 19, 2010
Ofcom has announced it will not be conducting an investigation into YouView, the former Project Canvas, stating it would be premature at this stage of its development. However, the regulator warned it may reopen the files at a later stage.
Cableco Virgin Media and the receiver technology developer IP Vision had both called on Ofcom to investigate the hybrid television project under the terms of the Competition Act. A last minute complaint by BSkyB had brought the total number of objections to 13.
Led by the BBC, the other YouView partners are ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Arqiva, BT and Talk Talk.
Setting out its reasoning the regulator said:
■IPTV is still an emerging sector, and the impact of YouView on the market will not be known with any confidence for some time;
■It is likely that YouView will bring benefits to viewers and consumers. Any potential harm to competition would need to be offset against these benefits; and
■Whether or not YouView and its partners will harm competition in the ways alleged will depend upon how this emerging market develops and how the YouView partners act, particularly in relation to issuing technical standards and providing access to content.
“Ofcom’s view is that consumers’ interests will not be served by opening an investigation. It would be premature at the current stage of YouView’s development given the absence of a clear risk of consumer harm,” said Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards. “But if evidence does emerge in the future that YouView causes harm to the interests of viewers and consumers we may reconsider whether to investigate.”
Ofcom looked across three main areas of concern; content, standards and user interfaces. On content the regulator said that it was difficult to determine the impact at this stage, but said if the partners were to restrict the supply of video on demand content to rivals, it could generate competition concerns. When it came to standards Ofcom said the partners had already made a number of technical standards available to the industry – readers will recall the early acrimony between Canvas and the Digital TV Group (DTG) over the interoperability with the UK Connected TV standard – and Ofcom said it does not justify an investigation at this stage. Ofcom did identify a risk that YouView might result in a more limited choice of user interfaces and user experiences for viewers. But said an assessment would need to recognise the choice that already exists in the TV market and new opportunities for entry from other firms, as well as the potential benefits to consumers of a common ‘look and feel’.
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