Project Kangaroo, the joint project between the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, may be dead, after having been killed off by the Competition Commission in early February. But its successor, Project Canvas, ultimately more exciting and more ambitious, is just now getting off the ground.

Project Kangaroo

Kangaroo was envisioned as a one-stop online video portal which would have put content from the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 into one central place. Unfortunately, due to complaints from BSkyB and cable companies, the project was forcibly canned.

Project Canvas

But even before this happened, the BBC and ITV had signaled their intentions to work on a new collaborative effort, along with phone operator, BT. Project Canvas is its name and the details of the plan are just now being revealed. The reason being that the plans have to go before the BBC Trust before being put into action.

Project Canvas is an effort to develop a new open standard for online video, which could be used by all who wanted to do so. Any Internet-enabled television or set-top box could then be modified to run a range of online video services, such as, but not limited to, the BBC iPlayer and ITVPlayer.

Joint Venture For All

Initially, the plan is to release a new range of Internet-enabled set-top boxes in the UK which would offer Freeview or Freesat, and many Web television catch-up services. The initial outlay involved in buying the set-top box and paying a monthly Broadband subscription fee would be the only costs for the free services.

The reason BT is involved is because of the likely opposition to the plans from ISPs, some of which already balk at the amount of bandwidth taken up by online video. There are plans to create so-called Canvas tariffs, which would both guarantee the subscriber a fast and reliable service, and pay some of the ISPs costs associated with carrying the extra data.

Who Wants In?

As well as the BBC, ITV, and the ISPs, other interested parties are being invited to take part in the consultation on the plans. YouTube would obviously be interested in being available on the televisions of every home in Britain.

As would LoveFilm, the British equivalent to Netflix, which could charge for streaming movies over the Web instead of sending DVDs through the post. Which is, funnily enough, exactly what Netflix seems to be planning in the future.

Huggers Speaks

Erik Huggers, director of future media and technology at the BBC, told The Times:

“We are excited about what this could mean for the viewing public. While audience demand for high-quality public service broadcasting remains high, the ability of the commercial operators to deliver is seriously threatened by a changing media landscape and the difficult economic climate.

Innovation is in the BBC’s DNA, and with our funding model and great content, we’re in a unique position to innovate for the benefit of everyone.”

Conclusions

The two-part consultation period for Project Canvas has already begun. The whole thing is expected to be completed by July 24, when the BBC Trust will deliver its findings. If the plans are approved, Canvas could launch in 2010.

This sounds like a fantastic project, which could potentially bring online video into the mainstream and onto the televisions in millions of British homes. This makes Project Kangaroo look quite insignificant in comparison.

Let’s just hope this plan gets the approval it needs to become reality, and doesn’t stall due to the attentions of jealous rival broadcasters.

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