As soon as Project Kangaroo was killed at birth the BBC began work on Project Canvas. This is a bigger, bolder attempt at standardizing Internet TV at this early stage of its infancy.
However, Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB isn’t happy with the proposals, and BBC red tape means it probably won’t arrive until 2011 – if at all.
Kangaroo To Canvas
Project Kangaroo was a joint project between the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, the big three broadcasters in the U.K. It would have resulted in a one-stop shop for the online catch-up services currently offered by all three separately.
Unfortunately, BSkyB and Virgin Media complained about the project and the Competition Commission consequently culled the project before it truly got off the ground. The technology was then sold to Arqiva, which plans to use it to set up its own online television service.
However, the BBC had already moved onto Project Canvas. The same companies are involved, along with British Telecom, with Canvas conceived as an open standard for online video. Set-top boxes would mean viewers had access to a whole range of Internet TV.
Canvas Video Demo
The BBC’s future media & technology director Erik Huggers detailed Project Canvas a few weeks ago at C21Media’s FutureMedia conference in London. His presentation included a video demonstration of how Canvas would work with the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The demo gave a good flavor of what to expect should Canvas make it to launch. It could truly revolutionize Internet television in the U.K. and give not just the BBC but also commercial third parties to chance to reach viewers like never before.
However, there are a couple of hurdles to overcome before that. The satellite broadcaster BSkyB has come out strongly against Canvas, and its arguments are very similar to those used against Kangaroo.
Rupert Murdoch’s company suggests that membership of the scheme is exclusionary and that it isn’t actually an open joint venture. It is also against the BBC’s involvement as it is funded by the license fee and Canvas is an abuse of that public money.
This may seem like sour grapes but similar arguments managed to get Kangaroo killed.
Regardless of BSkyB’s objections, Project Canvas still has to make its way through the BBC’s red tape before it can be launched. The BBC Trust is currently consulting on the scheme and deciding whether it makes budgetary sense to go ahead with it.
Unfortunately, this means that Canvas is unlikely to see the light of day before 2011, with there still being a small chance of a Christmas 2010 release for the set-top boxes. That is, if Canvas gets given the OK in the first place.