Interview: YouView Has No Web Browser, No Payment Gateway, New CEO Says

The BBC-led Canvas connected-TV JV, now confirmed as named “YouView”, will prefer TV-specific apps to the open web and will leave paid content processing to pay TV and other providers themselves, newly-named CEO Richard Halton told paidContent:UK and reporters during a briefing Thursday morning…

Web walled garden

Although YouView will be highly internet-centric and will use HTML4 and 5, Flash and more, web technologies will be used to power TV and app functions; there will be no web browser viewers can use to browse the open web, Richard Halton told paidContent:UK…

“The question that often gets asked is, ‘Will this thing have a browser?‘ All of these devices are built technically in the same way (using web technologies) – if, in time, the British public decides that’s what it wants, we will be able to do it. But, for now, we’ve essentially built a TV experience.

“In the first instance, it would be more like Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) app store. For content providers, it means you can create a TV experience that’s tailored for the TV set. The reason mobile apps work is because they’ve been tailored for the mobile. In a way, that’s even more so for the TV set, because you’re 10 feet away from the screen.”

Different from *Google* TV

That means YouView will be quite different from Google’s connected-TV play, which revolves around threading web and web-video search in to TVs.

“Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV is driven very much by search,” Halton said. “To search for things you need a keyboard, a mouse. With YouView, you’ll be able to navigate it with a remote control in your hand.”

Though websites, per se, will be downplayed, web technologies will power enhancements to Freeview’s existing EPG metadata that will augment shows with additional context and content. “Say you’re watching CSI, you press ‘information’ – today, you would just get a description of the episode and whether it’s in widescreen. With YouView, you would get more apps, a CSI game, links to other U.S. drama.”

Apps for TV, but hazy

Core linear TV channels will be delivered, as today, via Freeview (DTT). But the way is open for a whole new range of content providers, via so-called “apps”, built using a software developers kit (SDK) that is coming “quite soon”, according to Halton.

But neither of these was detailed in YouView’s recently-published draft specs and, asked exactly how third parties will get to present “apps” on the TV, Halton said loosely: “It’s entirely up to them.”

This either suggests a high degree of flexibility or that the apps paradigm is yet to be sufficiently specced out.

“An app could be the interactive service linked to Strictly Come Dancing, it could be a bit like a version of The Telegraph’s complete newspaper, or it could be a content portal,” Halton said, also referring to a theoretical Skype TV app…

If you’re Sky Player, you could have a portal. Could the Royal Opera House put together a virtual channel and deliver wall-to-wall opera? Absolutely.”

What will the app approval process look like? “We want it to be as light-touch as possible,” Halton said. “We want developers to commit that they won’t break rules – if they do, we have the ability to call them out. There’ll be a limited level of technical QA – you don’t want to put one app on there that crashes the rest.”

Arts is a community YouView wants to win over in the next four to six weeks, likely to make clear that this is a public-service creation. YouView has been talking with “a range of organisations from all sectors” but won’t name names.

No payment provision

Although the BBC’s initial Canvas proposal had made clear the platform would support a range of paid services (eg. VOD, movies), YouView will not ship with a mandated conditional-access (CA) mechanism – it’s leaving that for content providers to figure out over the top…

“The number of payment gateways is consoldiating,” Halton said. “You might find that a lot of providers on the platform all use PayPal, or that ISPs want to offer a service that, whenever they offer paid content it displays on your bill.

“The interesting thing about Canvas is, it doesn’t seek to control the payment gateway itself, it will enable those models.”

YouView could have eased for broadcasters and others the path to getting paid by implementing its own payment gateway. As Halton acknowledged, independent producers like FremantleMedia have strongly asked the industry to implement micropayment mechanisms, and ITV (LSE: ITV) is hoping for same.

YouView has, however, consulted with the Technology Strategy Board, a government-funded agency exploring the creation of industry-wide micropayment foundations.