YouView to Launch as London Olympics Begin

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Set-top boxes for the U.K.'s long-delayed free-to-air and Internet-connected TV service will hit stores by the end of July priced at $469.

LONDON –YouView, the long-gestating free-to-air and Internet-connected television service backed by a line up of Britain's free-to-air broadcasters, is to be in the shops here later this month.

Formerly known as Project Canvas, YouView is a major partnership between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Arqiva and Internet suppliers British Telecom and TalkTalk.

And YouView, which initially received a hostile reaction from pay TV operators including satcaster BSkyB and cabler Virgin Media, has also secured NOW TV, the new internet TV service from Sky for its platform.

Sky's participation on the platform will bolster the offering which will also give set-top box owners the opportunity to access the BBC iPlayer, as well as, 4OD and the TV download service from Channel 5.

Now TV director Simon Creasey said: “We know there’s growing demand from UK consumers to access high-quality pay TV and internet-connected devices provide an innovative new way to help satisfy that demand. We will launch NOW TV across a wide variety of platforms and devices to make it as easy and convenient for customers to access some of Sky’s best content. We’re excited about distributing our content on YouView and in giving current free-to-air homes a fresh new choice.”

YouView chairman Alan Sugar and CEO Richard Halton introduced the new set-top box and the service's catch-up service and electronic program guide Wednesday in the British capital.

Sugar, the driving force and star of The Apprentice in the U.K., described the set-top box as “a great moment in British television." Halton added: “YouView is easy to use and seamlessly combines the worlds of catch up and live TV, on the living room TV.”

The set-top box is priced at £299 ($469) and is being pushed out by most major electrical retailers here.

The service will offer more than 100 digital TV and radio channels, seven day catch-up and on demand programmes from the content libraries of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 - all delivered to the viewer’s main TV.

Halton said YouView is currently "being enjoyed in over 2,000 homes and the feedback from the trial is very encouraging."

On the eve of YouView making its long-awaited consumer launch date public, NYC based Canaccord Genuity Securities issued a buy note for the Nasdaq-listed Virgin Media stock.

Analyst Tom Eagan said that while the launch of YouView could re-ignite concerns over Virgin's competitive position in the U.K., he said the stock could benefit.

"Wecontinue to believe that VMED will continue to take market share among paying video subscribers in its footprint. That coupled with strong operating leverage, an improving balance sheet and continued share repurchases should enable the trading multiple to continue to rise,"  Eagan's note said.