Digital TV Industry Steps Up Opposition To BBC’s Canvas

Marketing

The BBC-led video-on-demand venture known as Project Canvas has been criticised by the Digital TV group of rival broadcasters and hardware makers

Project Canvas – the video-on-demand venture that will allow viewers to watch online content via their TVs – has has raised concern among some broadcasters and technology providers, who claim that it is “not fully engaging with the industry”.

The Digital TV Group (DTG) – which represents more than 100 companies including BSkyB, Dixons, Freeview, Pace and Samsung – has lodged a complaint with the BBC Trust, claiming that the project has not taken the views of all the industry stakeholders into consideration, and will therefore be unable to produce an open, industry-wide technology standard which all members can work to.

“There remains widespread concern in the industry that there is a parallel process in place with a Canvas specification being developed between the Canvas joint venture and its innovation partners separately from, and regardless of, the DTG’s Connected TV specification work,” said the DTG in its submission to the BBC Trust.

“Feedback we have received from our membership indicates that the consensus among our members is that only a mandatory requirement for the Canvas joint venture to engage with industry to deliver an agreed specification can achieve widespread market success and represent the best interests of the UK consumers and TV licence fee payers,” it added.

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Project Canvas is a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT, Five, Channel 4 and TalkTalk. Viewers will be able to watch online content, such as BBC iPlayer or the ITV Player, on their TVs via a £200 set–top box connected to the Internet. Viewers would have to have a broadband subscription but would not pay any additional subscription for the content.

In December 2009, the BBC Trust gave its provisional approval for the project, having found significant benefits to implementing the service. These included increasing the demand for on-demand content, offering more ISPs the opportunity to develop “stronger triple play” (phone/TV/broadband) offerings and offering an accessible and affordable platform for new entrants to provide content to the market.

However, the Trust’s provisional conclusions included some conditions on the BBC’s involvement, in order to help secure the public value and minimise any potential harmful effects on the market. The Trust’s final consultation closed on Tuesday, and its final ruling is due in the next few months.

While the DTG did not clarify which of its members opposed Project Canvas, both Sky and Virgin Media raised concerns about its impact on the market. The Group called on the BBC to publish more information on Canvas’s planned search service, content delivery and user interface.

“We intend to continue our extensive work with the DTG’s connected TV working group with a view to better understand the reasons why the DTG have raised these concerns in this way, and work to resolve any concerns,” said a Project Canvas spokesman. “We believe Canvas will create commercial value for a wide range of companies as it is, at its heart, a project that aims to deliver the benefits of Connected TV, subscription free, to the public and a connected future for the UK’s content and application providers.”


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