BBC Trust launches consultation on Project Canvas

The BBC Trust has today launched its consultation on Project Canvas, the joint venture IPTV partnership between BBC, BT and ITV, with a decision expected by 24 July.

The project aims to create an open standard platform to provide viewers subscription-free access to on-demand services and internet content via TV and will serve as an upgrade to Freeview and Freesat.

The venture aims to launch in early 2010 pending approval.

It’s expected that a fourth partner, thought to be Channel 4 or Five, will be recruited in the coming months.

The overall budget for the first five years of Project Canvas is estimated to be £24m, which includes an equal cost sharing by four partners.

The BBC executive estimates its expenditure on the venture, which includes the current Freesat operation, will cost £16.6m in total over the next five years, this includes a £6m investment specifically in Canvas.

It’s understood ITV’s investment does not include new funds and is already accounted for within the broadcaster’s budget.

The Trust is inviting consultation responses to the proposal and will consider the public value and market impact of Canvas.

Project Canvas will enable online content owners to use the platform to provide TV viewers access to web services. This could see internet services for companies such as DirectGov alongside the likes of YouTube and on-demand services including BBC iPlayer and ITV Player.

The content channels, excluding BBC services and iPlayer, will be able to carry advertising and the platform will include an EPG to enable viewers to move between scheduled and on-demand programming.

The proposal requires an internet connected set-top box, which the BBC estimates would require an initial one off fee of between £100 – £200 and a broadband connection.

Canvas will also provide a developers’ software kit to enable content owners to optimise their websites for TV screens.

Erik Huggers, BBC director, future media & technology welcomed the consultation for the project.

He said: “This proposal comes at a time when commercial public service broadcasters are facing unprecedented challenges. 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. By converging the flexibility of the internet with the simplicity and reach of TV we can bring the power of the internet to a far wider audience.”

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