back to article IPTV UK: failure to launch?

Britain's broadcasters are struggling with the internet. Efforts to design a single, consistent IPTV platform have become mired by the need to accomodate participants' existing services - some with commercial agendas, others without - and mud slung by competitors is beginning to stick. At the centre of IPTV unification is …


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  1. MinionZero

    Virgin Media is now Sky

    @"Cable TV company Virgin Media, for example, is unhappy with what it calls the closed nature of YouView"

    Cable TV company Virgin Media is now owned by Sky. Sky don't like anything they can't control. Hence they will try to undermine the success of any service which undercuts them.

    i.e. "BSkyB buys Virgin Media TV channels for £160m"

    (British Sky Broadcasting Group (a.k.a. BSkyB; trading as Sky)

    So Sky own Virgin Media. Oh and surprise surprise, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission have done fuck all about it. So Murdoch wins and the government does fuck all about it. (But then as the Monopolies and Mergers Commission had their name changed (in 1999) to a more PR friendly Competition Commission because implying they stopped Monopolies in their name may actually mean people would expect them to stop Monopolies!).

    Anything which can cut out the Sky tax on all TV channels is very good news. I can't wait for IPTV services that bypass Murdoch's empire.

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Virgin Media is now Sky

      To set the record straight, BSKyB does not own Virgin Media. Sky acquired the Virgin-owned channels, not the company itself.

      1. MinionZero

        Virgin Media & Sky still together against IPTV

        Even if some part of Virgin Media still exists, in some form, their TV side of their business is very much assimilated into Sky.

        The BSkyB takeover of Virgin Media news (on the BBC and the Guardian etc.. is unclear as to precisely where the line stops, so I accept you may have more details on that).

        However whatever the status of some remaining part of Virgin Media, that deal still means that BSkyB and Virgin Media will work very closely together on any move to undermine anything which could undermine their mutual control over much of the TV distribution in the UK. They are therefore Monopolistic even if they are technically still a cartel.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down

          Oh dear

          Not even close.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          "some remaining part"

          You realise that they had, what 2 channels? And they were basically Star Trek.

          VM still owns its infrastructure and basically has moved away from its very brief foray into content provision. (I think it lasted all of a year and a half?) So the "TV side" of their business amounted to the rights to show a handful of American TV shows, however it has absolutely nothing to do with the TV business that VM (formerly known as telewest, ninex et al) provides. Nor even to do with the catch up tv they provide which is what this is all about.

          All that happened here is that BSB bought the content producing side of VM and so VM is now just selling access to its tubes. It's as though BT sold off BT vision, what's left is still the vast majority of the business.

          Virgin and Sky both want content to go through their tubes, no matter whose content it might be. If it can be in a way that they can charge for or advertise as a feature, all the better. That's not a cartel or a monopoly, it's just how businesses work.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Thumb Down

            Only two channels? Only StarTrek?

            LIVING, LIVINGit, Challenge, Challenge Jackpot, Bravo, Bravo 2 and Virgin1. Most of which has +1s and in Living's case an HD version.

            I don't think I've ever known Living show StartTrek. However it has shown:


            Criminal Minds.


            Grey's Anatomy

            Various of the CSI stable - in HD unlikely crappy 5.

            I would actually rate Living as one of the best channels available on the Sky platform.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Looking at that list

              It appears I significantly overestimated the worth of VM's channels.

              Make it one channel with Star Trek on.

  2. The Indomitable Gall

    For once, self-interest == consumer choice

    " Virgin portrays its beef with YouView as an attempt to stand up for consumer choice, but it is clearly motivated by self-interest too. If catch-up services remain separate and incompatible, Virgin's ability to combine them for a price is more attractive than it would be if there were an alternative, free-to-access unified service. "

    To be fair, Virgin are in the right here. Virgin's On Demand system is vastly superior to broadband iPlayer, and people currently find that a service worth paying for. The lack of stuttering alone is worth paying for, and the difference in video quality is night and day.

    Capitalism is build on consumer choice, and YouView does threaten to take picture quality out of the equation, commoditising video on a compromised, compressed quality level.

    As everyone's investing so heavily in SD, now seems a bit of a silly time to start throttling the video bandwidth unnecessarily.

    1. Bill Cumming

      @ The Indomitable Gall

      That's all well and good if you're in a Virgin cabled area!!

      What about the majority of the country which Virgin have not placed cable???

      Until Virgin CABLE is available in 80% of homes they should not get a say in National IPTV service.

      They cherry pick the area and ignored the rest of the country.

      BT's efforts in FTTC should be what Virgin should be doing, rolling out fibre to more areas.

      YouView will fare better than Virgin's efforts in the longrun since it will be open to a larger consumer base...

    2. Vic


      > The lack of stuttering alone is worth paying for

      I get no stuttering on iplayer.. But then I get all my data via get_iplayer, and stream it across my LANs with sshfs.

      If the BBC hadn't been so hostile towards Linux users - all 600 of us - at the start, we'd never have had these tools written. So maybe Ashley Highfield isn't[1] quite the penile stump we all claimed he is.


      [1] I lied. He is.

    3. polyp2000

      Virgin != Consumer Choice

      Pah ... I find it incredible that Virgin Media have the gall to talk about consumer choice - when they basically have a Monopoly on Cable TV & Cable Modem Broadband services.

      Im a Virgin Subscriber if I had the choice of another Cable provider I would switch in the blink of an eye.

  3. The BigYin

    Why would...

    ...YouView care how you get the data to your local system? Data is data. Suck it down as you see fit, your local client (whatever that may be) just has to be smart enough to buffer far enough ahead. I call "FUD" from Virgin.

    They may be worried about people storing the content and want it all DRM'd to heck. Well, I have news for them. By-passing DRM of that nature is a piece of piss and all it does is irritate the hell out of people who would otherwise behave responsibly and push them towards illegal avenues.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Virgin Media

    I admit that Virgin Media's services, (including catch up) are good, but the company is terrible to deal with.

    I'll take inferior picture quality, a few dropped frames and so on, if I don't have to get tied into a contract, charged an extortionate amount, get targeted excessively for marketing (at my previous AND current address at the same time, when I bought the service to my current address) and have to deal with their incompetent staff when things go wrong (to be fair, alot of the incompetence was caused by these staff having their hands tied by stupid company policies - it's nothing personal).

    I have already taken slower broadband for that reason, and I'm getting on quite nicely with freeview and iPlayer on the Wii. Catch up from more sources would be welcome though, so we'll see how this pans out.

    AC because I suspected this will get downvoted by those who have not had the pleasure of trying to get their telephone reconnected when VM have cut it off by mistake, nor trying to get money back from them when they owe you.

    1. Colin Millar

      Ah - the memories

      You describe my early 90's experience (I think it was UATV/CATV in those days) to a T.

      The nostalgia of it almost brought a tear to my eye.

      They seem to be sentimentally attached to being a bunch of wazocks.

  5. Da Andersson
    Thumb Down

    IP TV?! You got to be kidding me?!

    The current state of the UK network where I live ( Hull, Kingston Communications ), is so bad that IP TV is totally a disastrous experience.

    The speed is absolutely ludicrous with ( very(!) frequent ) seconds of delays while buffering.

    It's just absolutely useless!

    Is it the UK Internet or - as I suspect, Kingston Communications? Bottom line is - it doesn't matter! It's not worth even considering at the moment.

    Bahhh! Blahh!

    //Dan, Hull

    1. SuccessCase

      Hull is an anomaly

      Kingston communications have always been the operator there, not BT. It all goes back to 1902 (no kidding).

  6. Busby
    Thumb Up

    I love IPTV

    Must admit was not bothered before getting it, but inamorata loving my BT Vision. Not so much the vision brand but the concept is great. I'm sure Virgins version is just as good but have to say for me it's definitely the future of TV viewing. Massive plus point for me is the complete lack of adverts. Could do with a bit more frequent updates to the content though.

    Be interesting to see what appears next once we see more competition. If YouView is open and anyone can build boxes to receive we could see some great products hit the market. Pretty sure there will be plenty of crap, but happy we appear to be moving to a 21st century solution for content delivery.

    1. SuccessCase

      Which corrects a wrong impression this article makes

      IPTV has in fact launched nationally, that's what BT Vision is. In fact in the digital TV industry YouView is not referred to as IPTV, it's known as Over The Top content (OTT). Though in truth OTT service is a form of IPTV it's not usually referred to as such. OTT content is where the TV service is agnostic of the IP network, IPTV is the term usually reserved for when "awareness" of the TV service is built into the IP distribution network and usually a number of the channels are delivered using IP multicast. OTT content is always unicast. There is no reason OTT content has to be bad quality. Apple TV movie rentals are delivered OTT and have excellent HD quality. In fact, ironically on the Virgin IP network, Apple movies usually buffer and starts playing within a couple of seconds neatly illustrating the problem OTT poses for the (non OTT) IPTV industry. It's a highly disruptive technology. We can expect other OTT services, like Sky player, will also soon start offering high quality HD. The important thing with OTT content is to have a good caching arrangement using technologies from companies like Akamai. Currently one of the few remaining issues for OTT delivery is it's really bad for channel surfing because of the time required to buffer video. But there are already emerging solutions designed to overcome that problem.

  7. Tanuki

    Does it do Porn?

    History has repeatedly shown that one of the quickest and most-effective ways to accelerate the adoption of a technology is for it to provide quick and easy access to a diverse range of quality porn.

    Unless "YouView" addresses this sector, it's doomed to failure.

    [I'm sticking with my Bloomberg subscription - my porn begins with $$$$$]

  8. jamesrhamilton


    "The BBC Trust, the Corporation's governing body, recently said it believes syndicated BBC material should go solely through iPlayer, which appears to mean the web, YouView and nothing else."

    That's clearly not quite true - it's goes via Virgin Media's VoD service, which was, when I had it, not branded as having iPlayer content... it's just BBC content.

  9. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Uhm, Bittorrent and RSS?

    Why not just use Bittorrent and RSS. Both technologies are already available. They are very efficient and it's what it's going to move towards anyhow.

    If the broadcasters don't do it, the viewers will.

    1. David Knapman


      Do you lack the ability to distinguish the tense?

      "... recently said it believes syndicated BBC material should go solely through ..." would indicate an aim for the future, whereas your comment "... goes via Virgin Media's VoD service, which was, when I had it ..." is talking about your experiences in the past. The two do not overlap.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    IPtv - tomorrow's solution. Permanently.

    Didn't El Reg even used to have its own tame IPtv columnist? That "industry insider" gave up and moved on. Is there a message there?

    Something to do with a parrot springs to mind. A dead parrot, obviously. Nothing personal, Alex; it was the future then, and it's still the future now, and it will be for some time. Content delivery monopolies are bad, but aerials are still most people's favourites.

  11. Lamont Cranston

    IPTV may well be the future but,

    given that DVB still does not work as promised*, and nationwide access to "superfast" broadband isn't going to happen any time soon, I'm not going to hold my breath.

    A unified platform would certainly make buying a new TV a simpler process (and save faffing about with HTPCs and the like), but is there really any appetite among consumers to refresh their equipment again, straight after the digital switchover?

    Still, two fingers up to Virgin and Sky is always good.

    *Yes, I have more channels, but they break up when it rains, so that's hardly a massive improvement over the old analogue signal.

  12. Jon Green

    If BT actually delivered bandwidth...

    IPTV needs bandwidth, and reliable quality of service for streamed media. For the vast majority of British homes, BT delivers one or neither. And that's just for standard definition. If you want HD, don't make me laugh.

    When most other countries were rolling out ADSL, BT did its damnedest to hold off for as long as possible, to monetise their ISDN2 offering and avoid the large capital expenditures involved in a modern infrastructure rollout.

    And now we're seeing it again. Whilst cable customers have been enjoying data rates on a par with other developed countries, most BT ADSL consumers will be waiting years, if ever, to get fibre-to-the-cabinet - or, heaven forfend, even to the home. By which time, the rest of the world will have moved on, and BT customers will still be in the global doldrums.

    Until BT is compelled to commit funds and effort to a full-scale infrastructure rollout, now not sometime-maybe-never, ADSL-based IPTV will remain a nice toy with quality problems, and HD a pipe-dream.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fiddleing while rome burns?

    I cant help thinking that all the while the various party's argue about all this nonsense the rest of the world will go on about its business using bittorrent and usenet.

  14. Tim Wolfe-Barry

    Just get a Media Centre

    So I've just installed a Media Centre PC (Windows because that's what I had a licence for and setup seemed easier)...

    Blagged an old laptop from work, installed Win7 Home Premium, installed TunerFree MCE from Milliesoft.

    Now I get BBC/ITV/C4/C5 streamed on-demand and also the ability to download for future viewing.

    So you avoid the data speed issues (and your bandwidth cap) by downloading the shows overnight.

    Total expenditure - £50 in cables and an adapter to make VGA & Phono into HDMI for the Telly.


  15. breakfast


    "Unfortunately, the output of the BBC and ITV remain among the most-watched programming in the country"

    Why is that unfortunate? Surely that's good work on the part of the BBC and ITV? Organisations make good TV and people watch it. I thought consumer choice was how markets work?

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