UK Broadcaster, Five, Withdraws from Project Canvas

The partners behind Project Canvas--an initiative that sees 1) the BBC and other UK public-service broadcasters, 2) UK ISP's, BT and TalkTalk, and 3) UK broadcast transmission company, Arqiva, 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--announced last Friday that public-service broadcaster, Five, is ceasing its participation in the initiative, pending a review of its digital investment strategy. "We continue to support the objectives of Project Canvas and, despite withdrawing our interest in the venture, we believe it will be a critical part of our strategy for reaching consumers in the future," Five's director of strategy, Charles Constable, said in a prepared statement. Added Project Canvas director, Richard Halton: "We've had excellent support from Five. They share our goal of bringing the benefits of Internet-connected TV to all. We look forward to working with them as a content provider to the platform in the future."

According to Paid Content UK, a source "with knowledge of the situation" told it that Five--which has been put up for sale by its parent company, RTL, and which has been struggling financially over the past year or so--had "struggled to convince" RTL's majority shareholder, Bertelsmann, to let it continue its participation in Project Canvas. However, the cost of continued participation appears to have been too high for Bertelsmann's liking (note: Five also recently backed out of launching an HD version of its service on the UK's free-to-air digital terrestrial platform, Freeview). The BBC Trust has previously stated that the costs of developing, launching and operating Project Canvas for its first four years, which will be divided equally among all the initiative's partners, will total an estimated £115.6 million.