Writing in The Guardian, Berkett said he questioned whether in practice Canvas was evolving in a way that matched the rhetoric of the joint venture’s partners that include ITV, Channel 4, Five, Talk Talk, BT and Arqiva.
“Far from trying to block the development of these open standards, we have offered to work commercially with Canvas to explore mutually beneficial ways in which we could incorporate them as a self-contained service in the next generation of Virgin Media set-top boxes,” said Berkett. In December, Virgin will commence the rollout of its new TiVo middleware, which will create a similar hybrid experience to that being talked about by Project Canvas.
Berkett said that the 3.7 million Virgin Media homes would help establish the standard using the tried and tested formula that has already been applied to Freeview and the BBC iPlayer, to which the cableco currently contributes more than a quarter of viewing.
However, according to Berkett Canvas has refused the offer of including Canvas on the Virgin platform, saying that if the cableco wanted to use its standards it should do so via the Canvas interface. “This “shop window” to services would be entirely controlled by the joint venture partners and would allow the Canvas partners to give preference and prominence to their own channel content above that of any other content provider”.
Berkett says that unless Virgin accepts the consortiums conditions then people who want both Canvas and a pay-TV service will have to buy two set-top boxes, thus complicating the digital proposition.
It is the view of Broadband TV News that the more likely result is that consumers will simply keep with the pay-TV service they already have and only adopt Canvas when they are upgrading their set-tops or TVs. Once such a TV is switched to a pay-TV service it is the interface of that company that will dominate. In any case there are to date few exclusive deals that would merit the need for two receivers on the primary TV set.