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ThE MaStEr

Regulator says it's too early in the game to investigate

It has been denounced by the likes of Sky and Virgin from the get-go, and suffered a constant onslaught of attacks since August, but YouView has emerged victorious and will not be investigated by Ofcom.

The official Ofcom complaints started back in August, when Virgin Media demanded the joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva be investigated. There were some 12 other complaints to follow, from the likes of IPVision, Electra Entertainment, the ISBA and others, all broadly following suit with the original Virgin submission.

First and foremost, YouView, formerly Project Canvas, was likely to restrict competition between TV platforms and hurt consumers. There were also complaints that the technical standards involved had not been developed openly and were not available to those outside the joint venture, that the partners were 'incentivised to withhold content from competing platforms', and that YouView was tied to a specific user interface.

To all of this Ofcom effectively said that it was too early in the game to investigate complaints based on speculation, and everyone should just relax.

At the current stage of YouView's development, it said, "our view is that it would be premature to open an investigation". IPTV was still an emerging sector, and the impact of YouView on the market would not be known with any confidence for some time, it said.

On the consumer side of things, it said that YouView would in fact likely bring benefits to viewers and consumers, and any potential harm to competition would need to be offset against these. And that harm to competition, again, is too early to determine. "Whether or not YouView and its partners will harm competition in the ways alleged will depend upon how this emerging market develops and how they act, particularly in relation to providing access to content and issuing technical standards."

On the other points raised in the complaints, Ofcom said there was no evidence that the partners would limit video content to their competition, and that a number of technical standards have already been made available to the industry. "And while there is potential risk of consumer harm if transparency is restricted in the future, Ofcom does not consider the risk sufficiently material at this stage to justify an investigation."

Ofcom said that while it was not going to open an investigation, it would continue to monitor developments, "particularly in relation to YouView's approach to sharing standards and its effects on content syndication". It said if evidence emerged that the operation of YouView could cause harm to viewers and consumers in the future, it might reconsider investigating.

Ofcom's Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: "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.

In response to Ofcom's decision YouView's CEO Richard Halton said the partners had been clear throughout the process that YouView would stimulate competition in the TV platform market and create opportunities for content providers and device manufacturers. "Most importantly it represents a great consumer proposition. We therefore welcome this decision from Ofcom," he said.

"In a market dominated by pay services, we are creating the only mass market IPTV service that will be subscription free. All our efforts are now focused on launching a brilliant consumer product for launch next year. We look forward to broadening our engagement with wider industry partners over the coming weeks and months."

A Virgin Media spokesperson told Freeband TV News, "We are perplexed and disappointed by Ofcom's decision but will not comment further until we've examined their statement and the underlying reasoning in more detail."


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Regulator says it's too early in the game to investigate





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