The BBC has launched a public consultation on Project Canvas, the proposal for an online catch-up service, which would allow viewers to watch on demand content from the BBC, ITV, plus many more directly through their television sets.
The service, expected to roll-out in 2010 will be available through both Freesat and Freeview platforms, although it’s believed new equipment will be required, costing in the region of £100-£200. iPlayer, which launches in the Autumn for the existing Freesat customer base will require a new receiver for the full Project Canvas setup.
Project Canvas in many ways combines the efforts of multiple on-demand services all accessible through your television set, and is expected to be opened up to more than just the main channels such as BBC and ITV, but also NHS Direct, YouTube, plus many more web based video services, the possibilities may be endless.
Project Canvas is seeking to be transparent about what the service will deliver and how it is structured, in order to avoid the same fate of Kangaroo, the broadband pay-TV venture backed by BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4, which was scrapped earlier this month after falling foul of competition regulators.
The BBC has applied to the BBC Trust for its permission to form a joint venture partnership, which would set and promote a common standard for delivering on-demand TV and other internet content through a broadband connection. The BBC Trust, which will have the ultimate say on the proposal, will publish it’s interim conclusion by 8 June 2009 and final decision by 24 July 2009.
It is expected the project will cost partners £24m to get up and running, with the BBC expecting a four way equal split funding (assuming four partners) at £6m each. The proposal is for the venture to include the Freesat platform; the total cost including Freesat over a five-year period is around £16.6m. It’s believed ITV’s £6m contribution to the service has already been accounted for and will not represent a new outlay at a time when their finances are under severe pressure.
The project is expected to be run as a “not for profit” organisation, which is usually the case when the BBC are involved, same as BBC’s Freesat joint-venture with ITV.
On-demand programming, particularly catch-up TV services such as BBC iPlayer, has proven to be massively popular on TV services such as Virgin Media’s cable network, which could be part of the reason for such interest in combining television and Internet services.
Speaking about Project Canvas, Emma Scott, Managing Director of Freesat said;
Freesat is already fully behind the Canvas proposal and know from our own experience that its mix of free-to-air channels, HD, IPTV and EPG innovations will be an attractive proposition to consumers.
Our research shows that a third of viewers watch more programming once they see it in HD and we also know that the launch of iPlayer to Freesat this autumn is hotly anticipated.
Canvas now has the potential to continue the UK’s tradition of great free-to-air TV.
So what do you think, do you believe Project Canvas will get approval from the trust, or vetoed in the same way Kangaroo did?