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YouView, the internet TV venture backed by some of Britain’s biggest broadcasters and broadband providers, is set to be expanded as part of a renegotiation of the partnership agreement between its shareholders.
Discussions have quietly begun between YouView’s shareholders, which include the BBC, TalkTalk, BT and ITV, ahead of the end of the partnership agreement in March next year.
Those close to the negotiations said that some shareholders wanted to shake up the YouView platform, with the hope that they could extend the internet TV service across a range of devices, including TV sets, smartphones and tablets.
“The multi-device strategy such as connected TVs is important in particular to the broadcasters,” said one person familiar with the talks. “It has started as a TV set-top box but will evolve into a much bigger platform for us all to use.”
One person added that shareholders were also keen to bring in other content providers to bolster a service that already shows channels such as Dave among its catch-up TV options. BT offers its own paid-for content alongside free on-demand services from BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
The meetings between the shareholders had been friendly, said two people close to the talks, in sharp contrast to the stormy scenes in the early days of the partnership when the product was running years behind schedule and over budget.
As recently as last year, a boardroom bust-up led to the exit of Lord Sugar, the chairman, who had been parachuted into the group to drive the project forward. He has yet to be replaced. Sir Charles Dunstone, founder of TalkTalk, is acting as temporary chairman until a full-time successor is found.
YouView has so far been offered only on set-top boxes, which sell for up to £300, although the boxes are usually free if customers sign lengthy contracts with BT or TalkTalk.
Internet service providers such as BT and TalkTalk have used the boxes as the foundation of their growing TV businesses. People familiar with the talks said those groups were the happiest with the partnership so far.
Almost 400,000 YouView boxes had been sold as of the end of March. Backers of the platform are targeting the 6.5m Freeview homes in the UK that also have broadband services.
YouView launched last summer, two years late after shareholder disputes about the nature of the platform, but it has since met expectations with initial sales and take-up. Shareholders now wanted to expand the platform after this encouraging start, according to one person.
About three-quarters of customers have upgraded to the YouView catch-up and on-demand offering from free services such as Freeview.
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