The BBC has launched a public consultation on Project Canvas, the corporation’s proposals for an IPTV platform, which would allow viewers to watch on demand content such as the iPlayer directly through their television sets.
The BBC proposal is aimed at bringing its investment to the entire public broadcasting sector, so it is likely that its Freesat partner ITV, along with Channel 4 and Five would also benefit, bringing their own catch-up TV services to an installed base that would also include both Freesat and Freeview receivers. Other public services, such as the government health portal NHS Direct, are also expected to be made available.
This autumn Freesat will launch the iPlayer to its existing installed base of 250,000. However, a new receiver will be required to receive the full Project Canvas services, expected to go live in 2010. “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,” said Freesat MD Emma Scott. “Canvas now has the potential to continue the UK’s tradition of great free-to-air TV.”
Canvas capable devices, which are expected to include both HD and PVR capability, are likely to cost between £100 and £200. Viewers would need to be connected to the internet through their own ISP and pay any broadband access charges.
Taking Project Canvas live would cost the BBC £6m over the next five years rising to £16.6m when Freesat costs are taken into account.
The BBC Executive has estimated that initial devices would cost consumers in the range of £100-200 at launch in 2010. In order to access on-demand services, users would also have to pay their internet service providers for broadband access.
The BBC Executive 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 connected device. The Trust, which will have the ultimate say on the proposals, will now launch two periods of public consultation with the first reporting in the summer.