Virgin Media files anti-competitive complaint against Project Canvas

Virgin Media has appealed to Ofcom to investigate Project Canvas after filing an official complaint that the proposed IPTV platform is anti-competitive.

Virgin Media Red Devil
Virgin Media Red Devil

Virgin Media says Canvas – the joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, BT, TalkTalk and Arqiva to bring internet services to TVs – has developed from its original proposition of being a set of open standards that any company could tap into to being a closed, anti-competitive platform for the sole benefit of its partners.

Subscription-based Virgin Media says the evolution of Project Canvas, which will deliver free TV content on demand, will hamper the development of both its own and rival IPTV and VOD services.

A spokeswoman said the company hadn’t taken the decision to file the complaint lightly, having previously worked closely with Project Canvas partners, especially the BBC, on its own internet TV services.

“However, the Canvas partners have significantly exceeded their original claims to be creating a common set of open standards, which could have been improved by others, and are now intent on controlling every aspect of how people watch TV,” she said.

“The BBC Trust has already acknowledged, but then completely ignored, the impact that Canvas will have on so many different organisations, from consumer electronics firms to software developers and enterprising new technology manufacturers to independent programme makers,” she added. “We strongly urge Ofcom, supported by the OFT, to thoroughly examine Project Canvas and its clear anti-competitive behaviour.”

The complaint echoes criticisms made of Project Kangeroo, a video-on-demand platform proposed by BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4 that was ultimately blocked by the Competition Commission last year.

A Project Canvas statement said the joint venture would work closely with Ofcom should any investigation take place, remaining confident for its proposed launch next April.

It read: “Our proposals remain unchanged and will create an open standards-based internet-connected TV environment within which competition and innovation can flourish. Project Canvas has a close working relationship with the Digital Television Group to achieve this and it expects to have a common standard for connected TVs published by the end of the year. We remain focused on launching a consumer proposition next year that will transform people’s daily TV viewing experience.”

Virgin Media reported 200m views for its on-demand TV content in the first three months of this year, of which the BBC’s iPlayer was reponsible for more than a quarter.

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