Olswang, Reed Smith and Simmons among candidates for YouView panel

Internet TV service YouView is set to launch its first formal panel of external lawyers by the autumn, under a year after hiring a new legal chief from Virgin Media.

Toni Vitale, who joined the business in January as head of legal and company secretary, has sent out papers in recent weeks ahead of a tender process and plans to finalise the list by September or October.

Toni Vitale
Toni Vitale

Reed Smith and Simmons & Simmons are among the firms asked to pitch for what would be a new mandate, while Olswang has also been invited, as have some of YouView’s existing advisers.

The business, a joint venture between broadcasters including the BBC, ITV and BT, runs a subscription-free catch-up service giving iPlayer-like access to the last seven days’ broadcasting on a TV.

Its incumbent advisers include Bristows for trademarks and litigation, Charles Russell for competition, Travers Smith for IP and technology mandates and Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) for other matters. Not all of them have received requests for tender. Around twelve firms have been invited in total.

Vitale expects the adviser roster – currently an informal list – to be cut down to one or two firms, possibly comprising a larger firm for heftier matters and a second, specialist outfit.

Much of the legal work he is expecting to dish out will be in relation to upcoming product launches and contracts with manufacturers.

Olswang handled some of the matters related to the establishment of the joint venture in 2010, on which FFW advised the consortium of broadcasters (27 September 2010). The service was launched in July 2012 following a delay.

Bristows last year lost a case for YouView in an IP dispute with Cheltenham telecoms group Total, which had registered the trademark Your View in 2009 (15 November 2012).

Other firms holding legacy relationships with YouView include Osborne Clarke, which hired Vitale’s predecessor John Davidson-Kelly as a digital business partner in London last November (2 November 2012). Vitale later moved in to replace him from a role as assistant general counsel at Virgin Media (7 February 2013).

Vitale told The Lawyer: “I’m going to try and keep this list small. I don’t expect the budget to go down but what I do expect is to get more value from the firms by concentrating it. It’s very likely there’ll be one or two firms.

“The way my predecessor arranged the external legal resources was to bring in specialists in different areas. My personal view is it’s possible to get a closer working relationship if you have one or two firms.

“I’d keep the panel going for two years. Maybe the first time we do it we’d do it year by year.”