Brand Health Check: YouView

YouView: delayed launch
YouView: delayed launch

The on-demand TV business is still tackling launch problems as rivals steal a march.

Technical problems, several delayed launches and an entire press and marketing team fired - YouView, the set-top box business led by entrepreneur and The Apprentice star Lord Alan Sugar, has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The service - a joint venture between broadcasters and broadband internet providers including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, TalkTalk, BT and Arqiva, will allow users to watch programmes live or on-demand on their televisions.

It was initially expected to be available by Christmas 2010, but the latest launch date is now rumoured to be the fourth quarter of this year, revised from this spring. If this remains the case, it means that YouView will have failed to capitalise on the opportunity to target the millions of viewers tuning in to the Olympics.

Analysts have pointed the finger at YouView's sheer scale and complexity - as well as the differing objectives of its various shareholders, as reasons for the project's failure to see the light of day so far.

However, when the service does eventually launch, it won't just be internal wrangling that will put it to the test. The sector has become increasingly competitive of late - Netflix recently started streaming films online in the UK, and last month, Freeview announced plans to allow users to scroll backwards seven days on the EPG to access catch-up television. This was to be one of YouView's key differentiating features. So how can the brand boost its appeal when it launches?

We asked Nigel Walley, managing director at digital media consultancy Decipher, which has worked with a range of broadcast clients, and Jonathan Trimble, managing partner at agency 18 Feet & Rising, which has handled the account for Freeview in the past, for their thoughts.

JONATHAN TRIMBLE, Managing partner, 18 Feet & Rising (Freeview's former advertising agency)

'Real artists ship.' An old saying from Apple Computer meaning that there's no point unless you can deliver on time.

YouView had ideas with guts and ambition back in 2009, but the partners that make up the consortium have created a pinball game of selfish interest in which YouView's development is bounced back and forth. It's an idea stuck in its own internal workings.

Meanwhile, the competition has caught up. Even Freeview (which YouView was destined to displace) has revealed backwards EPG functionality.

Getting a cheaper box out there is one lever, but Sugar's (presumed) forte in this area is hindered by the fact that YouView has limited control over its manufacturing partners. Indeed, missing the Olympics means inability to gain retail momentum fast with the risk of becoming a BBC-subsidised box for BT and TalkTalk.

YouView has one thing left if it's to stand proud in the marketplace - the ideal of giving freer access to technology because you don't have to subscribe to anything or anyone (IP provider aside). This is potent.


- Focus on a mission to give freer access to technology and make everything a natural extension of this.

- Stop being protectionist - work with competition to the same end.

- A huge chunk of the nation is pretty confused by it all - go for unbearable simplicity, uniformity and low price.

- Target Christmas TV viewing as the moment to come back even stronger after Olympics fever has tired us all out.

NIGEL WALLEY, Managing director, Decipher (digital media consultancy)

YouView is a clear example of a name, not a brand. A name doesn't become a brand until consumers understand what it delivers and what it stands for.

The reported spec has changed so often that consumers don't know what YouView will deliver, or what it stands for yet. Any new product needs time and space to create this clear idea of features and value in consumers' minds.

YouView's problem is that its own shareholders have denied it the chance of this clarity by not making clear the distinction between YouView, Freeview and SmartTV.

Is YouView the future of Freeview? Apparently not, as Freeview is launching similar products (the current Freeview TV ad campaign has got an iPlayer and YouTube logo in it).

This makes life complicated for the YouView marketing team as it's almost impossible to explain YouView to a consumer without reference to Freeview. Try it - it's like putting a Fruit Pastille in your mouth without chewing.


- Stop announcing launch dates - no one believes them any more and with each missed one the product loses industry support, let alone consumer understanding.

- Kill the name immediately and launch it as FreeviewSmart. It's a Freeview product and it's pretty 'smart', so call it this.

- This is a 'Ronseal' strategy - it will do what it says on the tin and make it easier to explain to customers. (I don't care about the ownership issues - solve them!)

- Start planning for 'version two'.

No one gets it right on the first attempt - even if it is four years late.

Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free