IPTV service may make convergence a reality

The BBC Trust, the pubcaster’s governing body, has approved Project Canvas, an IPTV service that aims to make convergence between TV and the Internet a reality.

The project, whose partners include rival broadcasters Channel 4, Five and ITV, telcos BT and TalkTalk, and communications infrastructure operator Arqiva, will create a platform for viewers to access the Internet services provided by the partners, such as the BBC’s VOD service iPlayer and C4’s equivalent 4OD, as well as third-party services.

The Trust has attached strings to the agreement, including the condition that the service should be free to access, although some pay services may be included, and there should be a common technical standard that set-top box manufacturers will need to meet.

Project Canvas will cost an estimated £115 million ($171 million) in its first four years, of which each partner will contribute an equal share.

However, the Trust, ever mindful of getting value for viewers’ mandatory license fee, has ruled the BBC’s involvement must not exceed estimated costs by more than 20%.

Project Canvas is unlikely to go live until next year and may be subject to challenges through anti-trust bodies in the U.K. and Europe from pay TV rivals Virgin Media and BSkyB, whose businesses it may damage, along with the DVD sector.

The decision follows an extensive consultation that garnered 800 written responses and indepth discussions with 60 entertainment industry groups.

Diane Coyle, a member of the BBC Trust and chair of its strategic approvals committee, said: “The Trust has concluded that Project Canvas will deliver significant public value for license fee payers. People with a broadband connection will be able to access a wide range of on-demand content including BBC iPlayer, free of charge, through their TV sets.”

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