Page Impressions Ltd Blogcetera: Project Canvas leaps in to replace Kangaroo!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Project Canvas leaps in to replace Kangaroo!

Project Canvas, the venture between BBC, ITV and BT to "bring catch-up from the PC to the TV", will cost the partners £24m to get up and running.   A fourth major partner, possibly Channel 4, Channel Five or a major internet service provider is expected to come on board in the near future.

The costs are intended to be shared equally and BBC has indicated that their share will be £6m of licence payers funding. 

The venture's backers aim to provide an open technology offering so that viewers with Freeview or Freesat and a broadband connection can access catch-up and on-demand programming via their TV from online services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player.

The BBC anticipates that these new web-enabled set-top boxes will cost somewhere in the region of £100 to £200, and that the catch-up television service will be delivered via the internet. The BBC, ITV and BT believe a sufficiently good service could be achieved with a relatively low speed internet connection of around 1.6 Mb, and other internet service providers are expected to back the scheme.

“We are excited about what this could mean for the viewing public,” Erik Huggers, director of future media and technology at the BBC, told The Times. “While audience demand for high-quality public service broadcasting remains high, the ability of the commercial operators to deliver is seriously threatened by a changing media landscape and the difficult economic climate. Innovation is in the BBC’s DNA, and with our funding model and great content, we’re in a unique position to innovate for the benefit of everyone.”

Earlier this month, a proposed catch-up TV service backed by the ITV, Channel 4 and BBC, was blocked by the Competition Commission. The Commission ruled that Project Kangaroo, the online television venture between ITV, Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide, was blocked by the Competition Commission this month on the grounds that it would stifle the video-on-demand market, so the trio insist that Canvas will be open to any content provider that meets technical parameters. For that reason, those involved with the project are careful to label it as “Freeview mark two; not Project Kangaroo mark two”.  Although I suspect it is the same team behind Canvas that was behind Kangaroo.

The team behind Project Canvas has stressed that other content providers, such as film rental services, would be welcome to offer their services through the platform, as long as they meet the necessary technical standards required.

Some television viewers are already able to watch shows from BBC iPlayer on their TV. Virgin Media offers BBC iPlayer to its 3.7 million subscribers, and this audience accounts for 30 per cent of all viewing requests logged by iPlayer.

Anyone who has tried to watch the iPlayer or any video content online at less than 2Mb will find the suggestion that, 1.6 Mb broadband accesses will be sufficient to support an adequate service to be quite amusing.

In addition, why is it going to cost £24 million to develop an iPlayer for a TV set-top box, when the likes of Sony and Pace not to mention Virgin have capability developed?  Agreeing open access standards for their content to be run on set-top boxes should not cost so much and there are enough set-top manufacturers who are ready to work with such a standard and build it into their equipment.  I recall from a recent Internet/TV project that the BBC frequently changed their iPlayer format to frustrate software developers trying to develop set-top box developments to deliver the iPlayer.

The BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body, yesterday opened a consultation on the proposals, and will make a decision on the project by the end of July.

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