YouView pulls app as it tells users they're not its customers

The YouView mobile app is being withdrawn

YouView users are being told they are not its customers, as the hybrid TV platform changes its strategy.

In a sign of things to come for users of the platform, which combines Freeview channels with online streaming and catch-up services, the YouView mobile app, that enables viewers to set recordings and control their box from almost anywhere in the world, is being phased out and will be completely withdrawn on 31st March 2020.

For some users, this will result in a loss of functionality in what was previously a major selling point for YouView.

It's part of a change of strategy at YouView, which this week has confirmed that after eight years, it's moving away from providing products and services directly to individual users.

Instead, YouView will now view the ISPs and manufacturers that market YouView receivers as their customers, rather than individual users (i.e. consumers). Customers of YouView are BT and its offshoot Plusnet, TalkTalk, Sony and Humax.

YouView statement

In order to deliver the most innovative TV experience, we are refocusing development away from ‘direct to consumer’ products and toward delivering best in class TV technology services direct to our customers BT, TalkTalk, Humax and Sony.  As such we will no longer be continuing a YouView stand-alone mobile app and instead will support our customers by providing functionality in their own branded TV apps.

YouView users who subscribe to BT are being told to use the BT TV app instead, but in its announcement, the company declined to recommend the equivalent TV planner app for TalkTalk TV users. Other YouView users have no alternative option to restore the functionality they are losing, while those that do will need to remain a subscriber with their ISP to use the additional functionality.

YouView was first launched in 2012 and receivers supporting its service - including many current Sony Smart TVs - have since been sold by retailers as well as directly marketed by ISPs for their TV services.

In recent years, BT and TalkTalk have increasingly moved away from using the YouView brand, instead marketing TV services to customers via their own brands and apps, with BT's boxes even moving to their own update and upgrade schedule.

The move casts doubt on the future of other YouView direct-to-consumer services, such as Voice Search and its consumer facing website - which at the time of publication is still promoting the app -  as well as its support forum.

What to do if you have YouView or are thinking of getting a receiver that says its supports YouView?

With YouView moving away from providing services directly to consumers, current and potential future users need to look at what support and features they will be getting from either the internet service provider that bundles the service or the manufacturer selling the box or TV and whether that meets their requirements.

BT in particular has been busy developing its own subset of YouView in recent years, with additional functionality, including 4K UHD services, user apps and soon, full Now TV support. But once a user stops subscribing, functionality becomes limited and since the end of 2019, for those on new contract terms, devices now need to be sent back to BT after any termination of service.

If you don't subscribe to BT, TalkTalk or Plusnet TV, you may be better choosing a device that supports Freeview Play.

This is because once you strip away the extras that BT, Plusnet or TalkTalk add, including apps and extra channel choice, a Freeview Play device will offer a similar core service: both YouView and Freeview Play combine regular TV services received through a TV aerial with services offered via the internet. As Freeview Play is supported by the majority of TV manufacturers in the UK, it's also well supported.

For additional apps, beyond those of the main broadcasters such as the iPlayer and All4, individual device manufacturers will offer their own suite of apps. LG, for example offers a wide variety of apps, including Now TV, on top of the core Freeview Play service.  Sony, on the other hand, has chosen to support YouView on some smart TVs and Freeview Play on others. The smart TVs with YouView also support Android TV, so have a much wider range of additional apps.