BBC Deliver More Details About Project Canvas

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The BBC Trust have released the latest report on the new Internet TV cooperation that is project Canvas.

The initiative led by the BBC and partnering with BT and ITV is an ambitious project aimed at defining a new standard for the delivery of streaming content to broadband fitted set-top boxes.

During the first phase of its public consultation the Trust received feedback from 60 industry stakeholders and found "widespread support for the delivery of Internet TV to viewers", with most of its stakeholders acknowledging that the "BBC could potentially help both coordinate and accelerate this process".

Sky TV, not being very happy about the project had tabled concerns back in May about how rigorous and impartial the Trust was being in regards to its assessment of the project. Being concerned that the BBC was using public money to shape the Online TV market, which it said could "distort competition" to the detriment of consumers.

It also said that plans to create a Canvas electronic programme guide and user interface have suggested that it would be a completely new platform rather than just a service wraparound for Internet TV services.

In response, the Trust defended its "rigorous assessment" of the project, which included "consideration of both the public value and market impact of the proposal".

Canvas partners BT, ITV and the BBC also challenged Sky's concerns by commenting that the "enormous consumer benefits" of internet powered TV should "not be restricted to paying customers".

"Freeview and Freesat transformed digital TV, and showed what standards-based platforms can do for audiences and the industry," the broadcasters said in a statement.

"Canvas has the potential to do the same for the next generation of TV, bringing content on-demand from a huge range of providers into the living room, all for a one-off fee. Access to the Canvas platform would be open to any third-party, including Sky."

Despite this, the Trust called for additional information from the BBC Executive about the proposal, including clarification on how the corporation would work with other industry bodies in the development of Canvas.

It also requested guidance on the proposed technical specifications for the project and the arrangements for control of any EPG or user interface.

BBC Trustee Diane Coyle said that this process was to give the Trust the "flexibility to reach a final conclusion, whilst maintaining a rigorous assessment of the proposals".

The BBC stated in reply that its intention to work very closely with industry stakeholders such as the Digital TV Group during development of the project.

It also pledged to retain an "openness and consistency" in the creation of an overall user interface for Canvas devices, which would be in line with plans to ensure that the service supports a "wide range of monetisation options, including targeted advertising, micropayments and subscription".

The BBC also holds a shared ambition with ITV to ensure that Canvas is "aligned" with the launch of Freeview HD later in the year, as well as with plans to bring BBC iPlayer to Freesat.

It is also working with industry bodies such as the Open IPTV Forum and European Broadcasting Union to "bring a globally scalable specification to market in the UK in 2010″.

Coyle commented:- "We are pleased that the BBC Executive has responded positively to our request for more information. We are now giving stakeholders
the chance to let us have their comments so that we can give them careful consideration.

"Over the coming months we will continue to engage with stakeholders to help us make a fully informed judgement."

It was also confirmed by the trust that September 1st has been set as a deadline for any remaining stakeholders to comment on Canvas. Following this, it will publish a provisional conclusion on the project in the autumn, followed by a final decision "as soon as possible".

So in a nutshell, project Canvas is slowly taking form and Sky are scared about losing dominance in the pay tv market and therefore trying to block its progress. Add into the mix that Hulu are looking to launch in the UK around September and we have a heady internet TV cocktail ready to blow.Deliver

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