BBC Project Canvas to cover Europe?

BBC to take leadership role in pan-European IPTV standards
BBC to take leadership role in pan-European IPTV standards

The BBC programme director responsible for Project Canvas has indicated that the planned IPTV service could use a common platform across Europe.

In a press release today previewing a keynote speech he will make at the IPTV World Forum later this month, Richard Halton said, "We have spoken with a number of Europe's leading broadcasters, and there is interest in the idea of a common platform."

Until now, it had been assumed that Project Canvas was aimed at defining standards for delivering on-demand TV via the internet for free-to-air broadcasters in the UK only.

Blank Canvas

For consumers, Project Canvas would enable subscription-free access to on-demand television services and other internet-based content, through a broadband connected digital device. For broadcasters, Project Canvas would be a way to focus their efforts and ultimately ease the potentially painful transition to a full IPTV service.

Halton says, "The first aim is to establish a standard-based approach for delivering content to internet connected TV sets. This does necessarily mean creating standards - there are plenty out there already - but bringing the relevant ones together. The intention is to avoid having to rewrite content for more and more devices, as we are increasingly having to do for iPlayer."

"The BBC is unusual in that it takes an audience led, content led approach, with the focus to maximise the amount of content available to these new connected devices. The BBC has only an audience interest, not a commercial interest, and promotes the needs of audience and the license payer. "

Crowded pipes

Halton is also keen to improve relations with ISPs, who find IPTV services like the BBC's iPlayer taking up an ever-increasing share of network resources.

"We have consulted with all ISPs about the role they might play," he says, "And have received positive expressions of interest from quite a few, with BT being the first to come forward."

The BBC Trust has just opened a public consultation into Project Canvas, where industry stakeholders, audience groups and licence fee payers can comment on the proposals until mid-April.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.