YouView set-top boxes are to go on sale by the end of July for £299 as the broadcasters’ delayed £70m connected TV service was officially unveiled today.

As revealed by Broadcast, Sky’s Now TV and STV’s VoD service will be the first third party broadcast partners available, alongside the terrestrial station’s services, shortly after launch.

YouView chairman Lord Sugar said that his ambition was that YouView would replace Freeview devices.

“I have been involved with this product because when I look back I want to have done something which changes the way in which people watch TV,” said Sugar.

“It’s a simple-to-use service with a vast range of content which offers a whole new way of experiencing TV.”

He added that the service was so easy to connect to the internet that if consumers failed to understand “then they don’t deserve to be watching TV.”  

Interest from 300 businesses

Initially, the YouView box will not offer linear streaming for channels but the 300 businesses that have expressed an interest in launching on the service will be offered the opportunity to launch on the EPG for a minimum of £50,000.

A formal enrolment process for content partners kicks off today.

ISP partners BT and TalkTalk will also launch their own YouView set-top boxes along with portals featuring content, which is only available to their subscribers.

Both are expected to subsidise the boxes by bundling them in with phone and broadband subscription.  

Delayed launch

YouView was initially scheduled to launch in 2010 and after a string of delays there was speculation a pre-Olympics launch was vital. But Sugar played down the significance of the Games.

“It’s a fallacy about there being an Olympics deadline,” he said. “We are launching a platform that will be around forever.”  

Outgoing BBC director general Mark Thompson added: “The iPlayer was delayed for a couple of years and everyone said it had launched too late to make a difference to VoD but last year we served 2bn streams.”  

Sky’s Now TV

Sky’s director of Now TV Simon Creasey said YouView enabled free-to-air homes to be targeted with a subscription or pay-as-you-view TV offering.

“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,” he said. 

“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.”

Sky Movies will be available from launch with the service later expanding to offer sport and entertainment content.

STV’s director of channels Bobby Hain said: “STV has a track-record of delivering informative, relevant and entertaining content to audiences and consumers across platforms.” 

This story was originally published by Broadcast.