Virgin Media is mulling over the possibility of referring Project Canvas to the media regulator Ofcom. The news of further regulatory delays to the connected TV venture comes as the partners enter talks with Orange as a possible replacement for Five.
A Virgin Media spokesperson declined to confirm whether legal action was likely but told Broadband TV News: “It’s disappointing that what started with seemingly positive intentions has developed into something which wants to dictate how we all watch TV. The BBC Trust has explicitly admitted Project Canvas will hamper innovation and so damage competition. Companies of all sizes and from so many affected industries have expressed their concerns but, to date, these have been summarily dismissed.”
Last month Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett claimed Canvas had refused an offer to include Canvas as part of its cable platform. He said the company remained squarely behind the aims of the Canvas partners that include the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Talk Talk, BT and Arqiva. However, the cableco remains concerned that Canvas would restrict and distort competition.
In addition to providing a mechanism for catch-up TV services, Canvas would also provide a gateway for government services such as NHS Direct and potential pay-TV competitors like LoveFilm.
“Canvas doesn’t exist to own, retail or aggregate content. We got a clean bill of health from the OFT and the BBC Trust and we’re pushing ahead with the launch in 2011,” said Canvas director Richard Halton.
Orange would become the seventh partner in Canvas after cash-strapped Five announced it was pulling out of the ventue. The France Telecom-owned company had previously planned to enter the UK IPTV market, but this was postponed indefinitely in November 2008, amid fears that the resulting service would be too similar to that of BT Vision.
Former Ofcom policy advisor Kip Meek has been slated as a potential chairman for Project Canvas that is looking to launch in the first half of 2011.