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IPTV service YouView bows in U.K.

Set-top boxes to go on sale this month

LONDON — New U.K. free-to-air IPTV service, YouView — backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and telcos Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk — is finally ready for launch after a string of delays.

The first commercially available set-top boxes will be available in time for the Olympics, said YouView chairman Alan Sugar Wednesday. Manufactured by Humax, the box will retail at £299 ($466). However, boxes will not be widely available in stores until the fall, when boxes from two other manufacturers will be available. These are likely to be subsidized by BT and TalkTalk, and sold as part of their phone, broadband and TV packages. At that point a $75.4 million marketing campaign will kick into action, said Sugar.

The service has cost $109 million to develop, said Sugar.

As well as providing on-demand content from free-to-air channels, YouView will also offer content from other providers. Satcaster BSkyB confirmed Wednesday that it will offer its NowTV package of films and sport on YouView, and Richard Halton, YouView chief executive, said the company was also in talks with other providers, including film and TV streaming service Lovefilm. The YouView boxes will also allow users to record live TV.

The new service faces an array of rivals. As well as streaming services like Netflix and Lovefilm, there are also major internet TV players like Apple TV and Google TV.

YouView was supposed to launch in 2010, which would have given it first-mover advantage, but technical difficulties and a debate between the backers delayed the launch.

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