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The proposed BBC/ITV/C4/Five/BT/Talk Talk/Arqiva connected TV joint venture has stressed its openness since it was first mooted by the BBC.
But, with just eight days to go before the Office of Fair Trading is due to rule on its competition credentials on May 19, Project Canvas appears to have raised the drawbridge…
The Canvas team says: “Project Canvas has submitted key documents to the Digital Television Group (DTG) today making the next set of technical specifications available to industry. This transparency will help create an open, competitive market.”
But, whatever the specs are, they’re secret – available only to DTG’s members via its website. DTG membership costs between £3,000 and £20,000. And DTG members appear to have signed non-disclosure agreements banning them from repeating what Canvas has submitted…
That’s not very “transparent”, is it? Peers and opponents like Sky and Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) are DTG members, so they can now judge the specs; that was probably Canvas’ top priority. It’s just licence fee payers who are locked out. If you’ve read it, maybe you’d like to get in touch with us…
The venture is estimated to cost £115.6 million over five years, £16.4 million of which would have come from the BBC licence holders, based on having six partners, before Arqiva joined.
The BBC published its original Canvas proposal in a lightweight document back in February 2009, but – after complaints from pay-TV operators, was asked by the BBC Trust for more detail. Four months later, it fleshed Canvas out in a new, 76-page document.
The proposal is to harmonise upcoming connected-TV efforts by creating a unified on-ramp, on TVs and set-top boxes, to TV VOD, transactional content and other online services. It could introduce a lot of innovation to living room entertainment.
Canvas is disclosing its specs rather later in the scrutiny process. It’s not known whether the OFT, to which Canvas referred itself, was given the same docs DTG has been. Canvas says it will be giving more docs to the DTG this month.
The BBC Trust has provisionally cleared Canvas, despite conceding that it could have a small detrimental effect on pay-TV operators, which Canvas says are welcome to offer their content through the service. But it has deferred a final conclusion until the OFT releases its verdict.