Project Canvas Publishes Deadline for Expressions of Interest by Potential Partners

--Project Canvas CTO and Director of Marketing Named
--BT Exec Says Company Will Remain Committed to BT Vision even after Canvas Launches

Project Canvas--an initiative that sees 1) UK public service broadcasters, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, 2) UK ISP's, BT and Talk Talk, and 3), as of last week, UK broadcast transmission company, Arqiva (see the article published on, March 23rd), 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)--last week announced that April 23rd is the deadline for other potential partners to express interest in joining its proposed venture.

The Project Canvas partners formally invited expressions of interest from the market on December 16th, the point at which Talk Talk and Channel 4 announced their commitment to the project. Since then, the partners say that they have held discussions with a range of interested parties, and would consider one further partner for the pre-launch phase of Canvas. "The BBC Trust's interim approval of the proposals in December added real momentum to the project, and the prospect of developing a subscription-free, open Internet-connected TV platform has become that much more real," Project Canvas director, Richard Halton, said in a prepared statement. "The potential is obvious, and the market interest has been strong. We are keen to finalize the number of interested parties in the venture to ensure we have the most effective project structure to take us through to launch, subject to final Trust conclusions. If any potential partners wish to enter into discussions with the partnership, they now have a further month to do so."

The Project Canvas partners are stressing that their announcement of a deadline for new partners "relates only to venture partners, who would co-fund the proposed platform, and does not relate to prospective content or service provider relationships, for which a separate process and timetable will be published after BBC Trust approval." They also say that, once their joint venture officially launches, they will "re-consider the viability of admitting additional partners against the published admission criteria."

In other Project Canvas news:

  • The Project Canvas partners have appointed Anthony Rose as CTO and Tim Hunt as director of marketing. The appointments are on an interim basis until the proposed joint venture is formed, pending approval from the BBC Trust. Rose is currently future media controller of the BBC's Vision and Online Media Group. Prior to that, he was the corporation's head of digital media technology, responsible for delivering the BBC iPlayer and creating a unified embedded media experience across its online properties. Prior to joining the BBC, he was CTO of music download service, Kazaa/Altnet. Hunt, meanwhile, is currently director of marketing and communications for Freeview, the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial platform. Prior to that, he was marketing director at Project Kangaroo, the VOD joint venture between the BBC's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, and terrestrial broadcasters, ITV and Channel 4 (note: Project Kangaroo was believed to be close to launch, when it was nixed in February, 2009 by the Competition Commission, an independent public body that investigates mergers, markets and regulated industries at the UK government's behest). He also served as marketing director at Sky Italia and as managing director of creative ad agency, St. Lukes.
  • In a keynote at the IPTV World Forum in London last week, Richard Young, director of business development for BT's hybrid DTT/IPTV service, BT Vision, stated that, while Project Canvas will potentially present BT Vision with more competition, the company remains committed to the service. "We will continue to provide BT vision to our customers," Young said. "We need to aggregate key content and we see services which we think will come onto Canvas as complementary. We can see a role for us as aggregating free content but also the best pay content as a on overall package with services...We face more competition...but we are ready to accept that challenge to provide what's best for our consumers." Young appears to have been addressing a charge made by BSkyB COO, Mike Darcey, in a recent column for the UK newspaper, The Guardian, that BT views Project Canvas as an opportunity to "relaunch its TV service."