The BBC Trust has given its provisional approval for the BBC to participate in Project Canvas, a video-on-demand service in conjunction with five other broadcasters
The BBC’s governing body, the BBC Trust, has given its provisional approval for the broadcaster’s involvement in Project Canvas – a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT, Five, Channel 4 and TalkTalk that would allow viewers with a broadband connection to access on-demand services on their television sets.
Viewers would be able to watch online content, such as BBC iPlayer or the ITV Player, on their TVs via a device such as a 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.
Project Canvas has undergone a rigorous process of assessment since February, involving more than 800 written responses from individuals and industry stakeholders. The Trust plans to impose some conditions on the BBC’s participation in the venture in order to reduce the likelihood of any adverse impact Canvas might have on the wider market. This could include slowing the future growth in subscribers to pay TV services, contributing to the long-term shrinking of the DVD rental and retail markets and negatively affecting existing or new smaller hybrid DTT/IPTV platforms.
However, the Trust found that there were significant benefits to implementing the service, such as 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.
“After careful consideration, the Trust has provisionally concluded that Canvas is likely to benefit licence fee payers. We believe Canvas could be an important part of the way in which the BBC delivers its services in the future,” said Diane Coyle, Chair of the Trust’s Strategic Approvals Committee, in a statement.
If approved, set-top boxes using Canvas technology are likely to be available by the end of next year, costing around £200.
“Our provisional conclusions include some conditions on the BBC’s involvement,” added Coyle. “These conditions are designed to help secure the public value we identified and to help minimise, where possible, any potential harmful effects on the market. We will now be consulting industry and the public on our provisional conclusions. The last stage of the process will be to consider the responses to that consultation before reaching our final decision.”
The Trust’s conditions include:
- The core technical specification must be published well in advance to allow manufacturers to adapt to the Canvas standard.
- Other content providers must have access to the platform.
- Any quality standards for Internet service providers must be applied on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis.
- A Trust review, 12 months after its launch, will assess the effects Canvas has had on the partners’ incentives to syndicate their content to other platforms.
- The platform must always remain accessible without a subscription.
- The BBC must report on whether the proposed accessibility features, such as audio description, have been incorporated. The Trust will review the signposting of content and parental controls.
- The BBC must return for further approval if costs exceed those projected by more than 20 percent in any one year.