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YouView launching in 2011

BBC, British Telecom major partners of service

LONDON - YouView, a new free-to-air and Internet-connected television service backed by a line-up of Britain's free-to-air broadcasters and promising to be "the future of television," will launch next year.

Formerly known as Project Canvas, YouView is a major partnership between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and Internet suppliers British Telecom and TalkTalk, which aims to bring Internet-enabled television to consumers as a mass market product.

It will have a searchable electronic program guide that will allow viewers to search seven days in the future or the past for upcoming programs and fare they may have missed.

Pricing for the services and set-top boxes has yet to be unveiled, but set-top boxes supplying YouView will go on sale next year, providing access to the hugely popular BBC iPlayer, which garners over a million downloads per month, as well as itv.com, 4OD and the TV download service from Channel 5.

Until now, the majority of viewers have only been able to access such services via their computers.

Newly-appointed YouViewchief executive Richard Halton said the platform "would change the way we watch television forever."

But the reception from pay-TV platforms Sky and Virgin Media has been hostile.

BSkyB has warned that the project is yet another example of "BBC mission creep," while cable group Virgin is awaiting the results of a complaint it filed with TV regulator Ofcom earlier this month.