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Anthony Rose Talks YouView in London

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Anthony Rose kicked off the 2010 Streaming Media Europe conference with a keynote that addressed more than just the YouView platform.

In the 45-minute speech, Rose—who played an instrumental role in the BBC iPlayer's launch and significant growth—said viewing models are rapidly converging.

"We're moving towards a time where the only distinction between video consumption on the desktop and the television is the size of the screen," said Rose. "We often talk about the internet version and the TV version of a large event, but consider this: Britain's final showing in the World Cup was available on television, but we had more than 800,000 simultaneous streams or 430Gbps for just one game.

Looking forward to the London Olympics in two years, Rose said "we think 2012 may be the first time that the event is equally viewed online within our market in terms of hours of viewing for all the various events."

Rose moved on to YouView in May, and he says some of his experiences working on the iPlayer were instrumental in shaping the YouView approach. He spoke of changes to the market in both desktop and living room consumption of video.

"When I was with iPlayer, we had the goal of getting iPlayer on many TV sets for over-the-top viewing," said Rose, "but we ran into a variety of issues as we talked to various set-top box manufacturers. For instance, set-top boxes were almost all bespoke projects, with a variety of features that didn't span even across all the boxes for the same Freeview service."

"While a new generation of set-top or over-the-top devices have an HTML browser and SSL (secure socket layer) security, viewing video even on these newer boxes takes several seconds to boot," said Rose. Still, these devices have grown in popularity, and there will be several million Internet-enabled TV in UK homes by year's end.

YouView is not a set-top box, per se, but an approach to unifying set-top boxes, much in the same way that TiVo has unified the interface for a variety of set-top box providers that it works with in various markets.

At the outset, Rose says he anticipates that YouView boxes will be a Freeview model with two HD tuners and a hard drive for DVR capability. At the heart of the YouView platform is a two-layer software stack, with the concept of an operating system that is consistent, coupled with the ability for content providers—and even developers—who will build applications.

"The base layer is supported by several hundred pages of documentation, showing how to access the APIs," said Rose. "Our code sits above the demarc and is stable and consistent, as set-top box manufacturers have told us they don't want to be in the update business like a computer operating system."

"We also see what we call 'differentiation code' as the second part of a two-layer solution," said Rose. "A content developer can access an API to build an application or a portal, and can even access our backend system to manage app updates, but developers and apps cannot access the primary operating system."

Rose said the intent is to put a platform in the hands of content providers that can address a variety of current and future needs.

"We're creating the building blocks," said Rose. "We don't have to build the full-and-final end proposition—you as the developer community will create apps that take the ecosystem beyond anything we could do on our own."

When asked about malicious applications, Rose said that security was key to YouView.

"Since getting an application on the platform is a check-box process, if someone creates a malicious app, there is a way it can be turned off," said Rose. "We see a balance between an apps model like the Apple iTunes App Store, at the whim of Mr. Jobs, or the Android marketplace that's a bit of a free for all. We see a balance between those two types of app stores, where we put a set of rules in place, including security, but allow the ecosystem to grow."

In addition, Rose said the YouView model "moves beyond SSL to content protection in the form of RTMP-E, Marlin MS3 and in due course Flash Access."

The Marlin MS3 content protection comment highlights one of the additional benefits Rose sees in YouView: the ability to strike a deal that all YouView set-top boxes can benefit from.

"We see benefit in establishing a trust model where content can be licensed once from Hollywood and played across all YouView boxes," said Rose. "Marlin MS3 will be free for content providers to use in a check-box solution. We're not in the content protection business, but we'll provide sample code and negotiate the overall Marlin content protection license."

Streaming Media Europe continues through Friday, October 15, at the Novotel London West.

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