YouView by BT pictures and hands-on
There's a good chance you're already confused by YouView. The service is designed with simplicity in mind, making it easy to get current and catch-up TV in one box with minimal fuss, but the multiple versions on offer will leave you with a decision to make.
BT has now pulled the covers off its version, known as YouView from BT, which sees the company going up against TalkTalk in offering YouView with a few added extras. We headed into the depths of BT Centre to have a play with the new service, launching on 26 October. You can read all about TalkTalk's offering here.
First and foremost, BT has stuck with the standard YouView box from Humax. It's the Humax DTR-T1000 in its raw form, as BT hasn't added a logo or anything else. In the first instance, this will be the box that BT customers will get, the same as you'd buy from John Lewis or Argos.
In the future there will be other boxes from BT, customised to reflect that it's YouView by BT, with the inclusion of a BT Vision button on the remote control, but in the first instance, it's the standard box that we've seen before.
We've already reviewed the Humax box so you can read all about that at your leisure, but the important parts are that you get 500GB of storage space internally and it is fan cooled, which some might find reason to complain about - especially if your TV cabinet is going to resonate and amplify the noise it makes.
As you'd expect, YouView by BT gives you everything that a standalone YouView box delivers. That means you get the neat forwards and backwards EPG integrating Freeview HD channels, PVR functions, plus catch-up services from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 in one neat package.
You'll also get access to Now TV from Sky, although you'll have to be a subscriber to that service to see the content on offer.
So far, so simple. Here's where it differs from YouView.
If you're a BT customer already, you'll know that BT has a television service called BT Vision. Although a separate product, YouView by BT essentially integrates the "on demand" section of BT Vision. Within the YouView by BT menu, you'll simply find a BT Vision player. Just to be clear, BT will continue to offer BT Vision in its current guise as a separate product from its YouView offering.
In reality, this is all that BT really needs to move over to YouView, because YouView covers much of what the BT Vision service offers anyway - the channels, the recording functions and the catch-up TV. However, YouView offers an advantage over BT Vision in that it's catch-up offerings from ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 are more comprehensive.
Where BT Vision offers only some of the programming from those services, YouView will offer everything. One of the technical points here is about rights: YouView, coming direct from the licence holders, can offer some programming that BT intrinsically can't. That means you'll get those big series from the US.
So BT's services on YouView cover a range of on-demand content that reflects what you'd get in BT Vision under the "On Demand" menu. This brings with it thousands of titles including TV series and movies to watch on demand, free of charge.
You also get access to pay per view movies to rent, offering premium titles at the same time as the DVD lands - so, basically, at the same time as Sky Movies or Blockbuster. You'll have to pay for each title, but you'll then get to watch that movie as much as you like for 48 hours.
There are SD and HD titles on offer: the SD movies are streamed directly when requested; the HD movies progressively download in the background, so you'll have to wait a few moments to get started with those. We tested a movie and found it was perhaps 90 seconds before we could start watching, so no big deal. HD movies cost more - while playing with YouView by BT we noted prices of £3.50 for SD and £4.50 for HD.
BT's on demand offering also brings with it music videos. BT is proud of its music video offering, with around 1,500 videos on offer, essentially covering the top 40 pop videos from the past few years. Within the music section of YouView by BT you can create playlists, so you can be your own VJ and line up music vids as you like, without the irritating ads you'll get from a music channel.
So what don't you get on YouView that BT Vision currently offers? BT hasn't been able to move its subscription channels, so you can't opt to pay for Sky Sports channels, for example, on YouView, which you can get in old-flavour BT Vision. However, the aim for BT is eventually to have everything on the YouView platform, as which point BT Vision will be phased out.
To get access to the BT additions in YouView you have to be a BT customer, of course. If you are a BT Infinity subscriber, then all you have to do is plug in the box and off you go. The best thing is that new Infinity customers can get the box for £49 (+£6.95 delivery) from BT, a substantial saving over the £299 that the box costs on the high street.
That box is then yours, so even if you leave BT in the future, you get to keep it, all you'll lose is the BT Vision section from the menu.
If you're a BT Broadband customer, you'll have to ensure you have a fast enough connection and you'll have to pay a BT Vision subscription fee to the Essential or Unlimited package to get the discounted box.
YouView by BT will be available on 26 October, you can register your interest on BT's website now.