In Submission to BBC Trust, BSkyB Voices Concerns about Project Canvas

--Project Canvas is a Joint OTT Venture between the BBC, ITV and BT

[itvt] recently reported (see article posted on, April 27th) that Project Canvas--a joint initiative between the BBC, UK commercial broadcaster ITV, and UK incumbent telco BT, which seeks to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer and the ITV player, as well as other Internet-based VOD services, to broadband-connected set-top boxes (specifically, set-top boxes designed for reception of the UK's free-to-air multichannel TV services, Freeview and Freesat)--may face the same kind of regulatory scrutiny from Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading that led to the demise of Project Kangaroo, the joint VOD venture between the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

Now, UK satellite-TV provider, BSkyB, has weighed in on the controversy surrounding Project Canvas with a submission to the BBC Trust's ongoing review of the initiative which claims, among other things, that the BBC's consultation paper for Project Canvas is lacking in detail and clarity, and which suggests that the proposal should be examined by the Office of Fair Trading as a "relevant merger situation." The submission also stresses that Project Canvas has significant potential to distort the competitive marketplace: "The proposals...would appear to reach far beyond the minimum required of the BBC to fulfil its primary purpose with the minimum of negative competitive impact, and appear to position the BBC as a market maker in an area where commercial operators have made, and continue to make, significant investments, such that the potential for distortion of competition is manifest. The Trust should not approve the proposals unless satisfied that the BBC is using public funds efficiently, effectively, and proportionately, and in a manner that would not significantly distort competition leading to an overall worse outcome for consumers." The full text of BSkyB's submission--which, among other things, also states that the "BBC should be required to minimize the impact of [Project Canvas] on developing standards, and to participate openly in existing industry-led initiatives, rather than permitted to mandate entirely new standards of its own" (note: the Intellect Technology Association, a body which represents, among others, manufacturers of digital TV equipment, has also complained that Project Canvas would create a UK-only standard that would make the UK a "technological island," and would make it difficult for foreign vendors to compete in the country's set-top box and integrated digital TV market--see the article referenced above)--is available at

BSkyB's concerns about Project Canvas elicited an immediate response from the BBC and its partners in the initiative: "The enormous consumer benefits that Internet-powered TV can bring should not be restricted to paying customers," the response read. "An open, standards-based platform, that enables a far greater range of content providers to enter the market, will be good for content owners and good for consumers--who gain a subscription-free alternative. Freeview and Freesat transformed digital TV, and showed what standards-based platforms can do for audiences and the industry. Canvas has the potential to do the same for the next generation of TV, bringing content on-demand from a huge range of providers into the living room, all for a one-off fee. Access to the Canvas platform would be open to any third party, including Sky."