Project Canvas Launched As YouView

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Canvas, the BBC-backed free-to-air digital TV box will arrive next year under the name YouView

Project Canvas, the UK-based free-to-air digital set-top-box project backed by the BBC and other broadcasters, was formally launched today as YouView.

In 2011, the company plans to deliver set-top boxes that will combine digital broadcasting with catch-up TV in the manner of the BBC’s popular iPlayer. The company, backed by the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, TalkTalk, Arqiva and Five, announced a chief executive Richard Halton, and set out its plans under its new YouView identity.

Subscription-free viewing

The BBC Trust approved the Canvas project in June, but it has faced opposition from obvious sources, such as BSkyB and the digital TV industry, but also from the UK’s Open Source Consortium who fear it will reduce choice. Others see a major push to get the Internet in people’s living rooms as a way to help meet government plans to get the final tranche of the British population online,

The set-top box service will include an interactive guide which looks backwards as well as forwards, to present any programme from the last seven days, including those already in catch-up offerings such as the iPlayer. The set-top box will also include a built-in PVR (personal video recorder) which can pause live TV, record whole series at a stroke, or search by genre.

There are also plans for a YouView app store which will allow for interactive applications that deliver particular types of content and link to other services. Like existing digital TV boxes or TV receivers, the YouView box itself will be available for a one-off fee, with no subscription charge.

New CEO

Halton, who has been leading the project from the start, was previously head of the corporate strategy team at the BBC which looked at emerging platforms, and helped develop the BBC’s technology strategy for the last ten years. In 2005, he led a ‘Creative Future’ strategy at the BBC.

He will work alongside Kip Meek, who was appointed Chairman in August. “YouView is a brilliant new subscription-free TV service which combines the best TV with on demand services and internet content,” he said in the YouView news release, promising the brand would bring creative possibilities such as networks for local services and new interactive applications.

Meek said YouView would ensure “everyone in the UK benefits from next-generation TV and the UK has a competitive market.”

Rivals were predictably unimpressed: “There’s a pressing need for a thorough and independent examination of this closed, anti-competitive platform as it will restrict consumer choice and stifle innovation,” a Virgin Media spokesperson told Broadband TV News. “We’re all already paying for this through the licence fee, whether we want it or not, so we urge Ofcom to bring some much needed transparency to the whole collaboration.”