UK telco BT has been forced to acquire set-top boxes from Korean firm Humax for its long-awaited launch of YouView services, after rejecting those from its go-to supplier Pace, according to reports in The Financial Times.
UK firm Pace had originally been lined up to supply the set-top boxes for BT’s launch of YouView services this autumn, and is still expected to take provide boxes at a later stage, but the reports quote unnamed sources as saying that its boxes were simply not ready in the timeframe needed.
Meanwhile Humax’s YouView STBs are thought to be larger and slower than the Pace models, but are being lined up by BT in order to meet its YouView launch timetable.
Rival ISP TalkTalk has already started a small-scale rollout of YouView boxes made by Chinese firm Huawei, and major retailers such as John Lewis have already started selling Humax-made YouView boxes in their stores, for the hefty price of GB£ 299 (US$ 470).
Seven set-top box partners were initially signed up to the YouView project, but many (including Cisco and Technicolor) dropped out, leaving Humax, Huawei and Pace.
YouView was launched last July after an extraordinarily lengthy incubation period and many delays, which led many industry commentators to speculate that it had already passed its window of opportunity. However, now that the boxes are out there, customer acceptance seems positive and the final result is definitely well-polished.
While BT still waits to launch its YouView packages (and is presumably seething that it now has to go to market with replacement units), TalkTalk has already started offering a free YouView box as well as access to its own video-on-demand store and the LOVEFiLM Instant service.
Giles Cottle, Principal Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media (publisher of IP&TV News), believes that TalkTalk has timed its TV strategy perfectly, and that the YouView packages will help make up for weak interest in its existing managed IPTV service.
“All of this puts TalkTalk back into the UK pay-TV league, but, to borrow more football parlance, it is still nowhere near challenging for the Champions League,” says Mr. Cottle. “BT and Virgin also have Sky wholesale deals, and no third party, including TalkTalk, has access to the much coveted Sky Atlantic, fast becoming the jewel in Sky’s Pay-TV crown.”