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Summary:

The BBC Trust’s interim verdict on the BBC’s Project Canvas open IPTV proposal is due on Monday. We asked Andrew Burke, who devised and ran…

imageThe BBC Trust’s interim verdict on the BBC’s Project Canvas open IPTV proposal is due on Monday. We asked Andrew Burke, who devised and ran the *BT* Vision IPTV service as CEO of BT (NYSE: BT) Entertainment, what Canvas might do for the UK IPTV ecology, which, unlike world-leading France, is languishing with fewer than half a million subscribers. Andrew is now CEO of AIM-listed set-top box maker Amino Technologies. He was previously COO of News Corp.’s eVentures VC arm and founder-CEO of News International’s Tiscali progenitor LineOne

BT Vision pioneered the hybrid set-top box model by taking Freeview and adding on-demand programming through an integrated IPTV connection. This should be a compelling combination but – due to technology, content and marketing challenges – the service is yet to realise its potential. The BBC is looking to swoop in, hijack the model, define the platform, deliver the content and market it using the same machine that made Freeview such a success. For the first time, Sky may find itself outclassed by the infinite flexibility that a broadband-connected Freeview clone could deliver.

There’s a strong likelihood Canvas will go ahead but, first, the BBC must satisfy these criteria…

It must enable, not control, the new platform. A gatekeeper approach will cause too many conflicts.
– It should assist in the platform definition and not dictate it. The approach must be open, transparent and flexible enough to adopt

  1. We share Andrew's comments regarding the potential of "connected" TV devices. This is a fourth generation of TV, where each generation have resulted in a "box swap". Unlike the previous 3 generations (Back and White to colour, Analogue to Digital, SD to HD) this 4th generation has a more fundamental impact on the viewing experience.

    Connected TV devices have the potential to embrace multiple sources or Internet Video alongside main stream TV viewing.

    However, We do not see Canvas really adding any value here, so its wrong to attribute this revolution to that bit of BBC hype. Its happening anyway, and if left to market forces, with result in more consumer choice, more innovation, and a more open solution. Canvas is "just another" device capable of this functionality, but one that is proposed to be editorially controlled by the BBC venture.

    Do consumer's want their internet content policed by "auntie"? I believe not! Cheaper, more open solutions, with more content will win the consumer's hearts and minds, and the BBC will have to put their content on these other devices, so what value does Canvas actually add?

    Ian Valentine

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  2. This is an interesting take on "Canvas" but also a very limited perspective. If you really want to add value to TV you will have access to all web based services – iPlayer, YouTube and beyond, services we haven't even thought of yet. IPTV is a red-herring. And god forbid we loose net-neutrality – it will be the end of innovation. The UK has the most thriving online market in Europe, to give ISPs the right to prioritise services would destroy this.

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  3. Robert Andrews Thursday, June 4, 2009

    @Michael,
    Isn't "IPTV" just a catchall term? ie. plugging broadband (TCP/IP) in to a television (TV). I'm sure all kinds of useful things are going to be done with that. But pull-VOD for catch-up will be one of them.

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  4. "Its happening anyway, and if left to market forces, with result in more consumer choice, more innovation, and a more open solution."

    Errr… the history of mankind would suggest the exact opposite of all three things actually.

    The market could have provided an effective set top box in this area for the last five years, but hasn't.

    This is infrastructure, and infrastructure only works properly if built by the state, not the market.

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  5. Two points

    I already have one of these… a dedicated Apple Mini with all the elgato ad ons.and audio additions. for 5.1 etc I won't bore you with a systems description. a etc.

    The second is that you don't need a single state supplier but you do need a universal technical standards which provide inter interoperability. but allow for development. For the advantages and limitations of the evolution of industry standardisation via competition try the 'intel PC/software complex' as a case study.

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  6. Canvas as a standards and design setting entity is fine but it needs more partners, including network partners other than BT. Given the target audience includes the disconnected, you need your old favourite, a SIP stack!

    Sacrificing 'net neutrality' so ADSL access can be used as an extension of the broadcast network would be a step backwards. Broadband access needs to support critical services.

    Using Canvas as a PVR where preferences can be programmed in and downloads scheduled to avoid congestion would work while the underlying bandwidth costs and peak hour bandwidth allocation per user get sorted out through a interconnection regime based on capacity rather than phone calls.

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