UK incumbent telco BT is to offer free YouView set-top-boxes to new BT Infinity customers with no TV subscription required. The hybrid set-top-box, supported by BT, BBC, ITV, Channel Four, TalkTalk, Arqiva and Channel 5, has a retail price of £299.
BT Total (ADSL and ADSL2+) customers will also receive a free YouView box when subscribing to the BT Vision 'TV Essential' package at £4 a month. All new customers will be required to pay an activation fee of £49, a delivery charge of £6.49 and will need to enter a 12 month minimum term contract.
From 26 October, all BT TV and broadband packages will offer access to YouView. Existing BT customers who are out of their minimum term contract will be given the option to upgrade to YouView for a one-off fee of £49 plus delivery charge.
TalkTalk is also offering a free YouView STB with no monthly subscription fee to TalkTalk Plus customers, which it has already made available. TalkTalk Plus is offered at £14.50 per month in addition to £9.50 line rental, for a minimum 18 month term. An activation fee of £20 is also charged.
TalkTalk stopped marketing its IPTV service in early 2011, with YouView now being its main TV proposition, unlike BT which has continued to improve its own IPTV service, BT Vision. TalkTalk is also offering a free 12 month subscription to LOVEFiLM Instant in addition to access to premium content, including Sky Sports and Sky Movies with no minimum contract term. TalkTalk customers will not be able to access BT Vision on-demand packages.
At year-end 2011, BT broadband services reached more than 8.58 million homes across the UK, with 62,000 of these being FTTH homes (BT Infinity). Although BT Infinity is not yet available country-wide, IHS Screen Digest understands that BT aims to have more than 66 per cent of homes passed for access to BT's FTTH by 2015. Assuming BT continue to offer free YouView boxes to new customers, BT could potentially reach more than 1.4m homes with YouView via BT Infinity.
BT Vision had initially been offered as a free DTT top-up proposition, moving to a mix of free and pay TV offers, and most recently moving completely to an entirely subscription-based paid-for TV business model. The new YouView offer to BT Infinity customers sees BT Vision go back to their previous strategy of offering a free TV proposition to some customers. BT originally dropped its free TV offer after it emerged that many customers were signing up to get the free box, then churning from the service, resulting in elevated costs for the telco. The minimum contract BT now requires customers to enter into should mitigate this to a large extent.
Although BT is not planning to migrate customers to the YouView box from their existing platform yet, running the two platforms side by side, uptake of YouView is likely to be higher. The Vision+ box is available for £90 and requires an activation fee of £40, or free if you enter a 12 month term subscription of £12.50 a month. YouView will be more widely marketed - being backed by other media and telecoms groups, and also being available at retail. The relatively high cost of the STB as a standalone product is also likely to act as an incentive to take up BT Infinity, if it is available in the area. Customers would be able to receive BT infinity and YouView services for as little as £18 a month. BT's standard broadband (16Mb) triple play package is also available for the same price at £18 per month.