Project Canvas Announces Arqiva's Participation, Submits Merger Analysis to UK's Office of Fair Trading

--Wii iPlayer Surpasses 1 Million Downloads, Updated Version Released

Project Canvas--an initiative that sees UK public service broadcasters, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, and UK ISP's, BT and Talk Talk, partnering in order to attempt to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer, the ITV player and 4oD, as well as other Internet-based services (including VOD and interactive TV widgets), to broadband-connected Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes (note: the partners in Project Canvas would run the platform, provide an SDK to parties interested in developing content and services for the platform, and also license the platform's user experience and brand to consumer electronics manufacturers; once the BBC has achieved final approval for its participation, the Project Canvas partners plan to form a joint venture that other industry players will also be able to buy into as equal partners)--announced Monday that Arqiva, the UK broadcast transmission company behind the recently launched SeeSaw broadband VOD service, has committed to joining the initiative. Arqiva will take an equal stake in Project Canvas and will provide equal funding for the venture with the other participating companies and organizations. "We are delighted to become a partner in Project Canvas," Arqiva's strategic development director, Rob Hamlin, said in a prepared statement. "Arqiva has a long history in supporting free-to-air broadcasting as a shareholder in Freeview and provider of digital terrestrial television networks, so it is a natural step for us to take a partner role in Canvas. The approach of Canvas as an open platform based on common technical standards is one we fully support and are looking to encourage through standards bodies, particularly via the UK's Digital Television Group." The Project Canvas partners also said Monday that they have submitted analysis to UK merger regulator, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), setting out arguments for why their proposed joint venture does not constitute a qualifying merger under the UK's 2002 Enterprise Act. The OFT is now expected to initiate a consultation process, and BBC governing body, the BBC Trust, has announced that it will delay its final decision on whether to allow the BBC to participate in Project Canvas until the OFT has released its findings, so that it can take those findings into account in its decision. "The Canvas partners are clear that the joint venture does not qualify as a merger, and we welcome the opportunity to clarify this position formally," Project Canvas director, Richard Halton, said in a prepared statement. In related news: The BBC says that downloads of the Nintendo Wii version of its BBC iPlayer programming catch-up service recently passed the one million milestone. According to the corporation, since January, the Wii has accounted for 4% of all TV viewing on the iPlayer across all platforms, and in February accounted for 5% (it says that there were 116 million iPlayer requests that month). Responding to the popularity of the Wii version of the iPlayer, the BBC has just launched an update which, among other things, includes a "Resume Playback" function" ("you can now resume watching partially viewed programs from the point you were watching previously, like you can on the Web version of BBC iPlayer," the BBC's Ruhel Ali explains on the corporation's Press Red blog), a list of previously watched programs, a revamped homepage, and a keypad toggle that allows viewers searching for programming to switch between numbers and letters.