Sky can help project Canvas unlock public value
After reading this morning about Sky's submission to the BBC Trust about project Canvas I wanted to respond on behalf of all partners (BBC, ITV, BT and Five).
Central to the thinking behind project Canvas is that we can create an open platform for the next generation of internet-connected TV devices, and by open, we mean that all content owners, internet service providers and device manufacturers can get involved. Openness delivers scale, which will be central to all the partners' ambitions to make the platform a mainstream success.
The article in today's FT, which outlines Sky's objections to the proposals, highlighted a few misconceptions we would like to clarify on behalf of all the partners.
Canvas will not be a BBC platform. It is a proposal for a new joint venture - much like Freeview or Freesat - with commercial partners, and ITV, Five and BT have already committed their support. The BBC's involvement in this venture is subject to BBC Trust approval and we expect their emerging conclusions in the Autumn.
Nor is it a "BBC standard" that the venture would adopt. A standard for connected TVs is being developed now with the Digital Television Group - this was always our intention and work has already begun. Our ambition is that the Canvas platform would be compliant with that standard.
The partners would welcome the support of any ISP (i.e. including Sky), who could help us reach these aims, by offering the platform to their subscribers or as a venture partner, provided their ambitions for a free-to-air platform and open competition match ours.
And subscription-free doesn't mean all the content has to be free. Like the internet, the Canvas platform would support a range of monetisation options - from advanced targeted advertising, micropayments or straightforward subscription. And as an open platform, the rules of access would be the same for any video on demand service, be it Lovefilm, ITV player, the BBC iPlayer or Blinkbox. Sky could increase the reach of its video-on-demand service Sky Player through the Canvas platform.
Canvas is in addition to, not instead of the syndication ambitions of all of the existing partners. Making content widely available is fundamental to the economics of free to air content providers and Canvas adds to the range of options available. As a platform, it is intended to reduce the barriers to accessing the television set that some content providers already experience.
Public service or not, we can all contribute to supporting a Digital Britain: be it in increasing the availability of online services such as NHS Direct, helping to drive broadband uptake by delivering service innovation or by investing to ensure that our subscription free TV platforms continue to evolve. The BBC thinks that Canvas is central to delivering these aims and is keen to work with partners who believe the same.
Richard Halton is the Director of Project Canvas.