Project Canvas to become YouView

YouView The new TV service will launch in the first half of 2011

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A new free-to-air, web-connected TV service combining Freeview digital channels with on-demand content such as iPlayer will launch in the UK in 2011.

YouView - formerly known as Project Canvas - is a partnership between BT, the BBC, ITV, Five, Channel 4, Arqiva and TalkTalk.

Users will access it via a set-top box, which will go on sale next year.

YouView's chief executive, Richard Halton, claimed it would "change the way we watch TV for ever".

The set-top boxes will be sold either on a stand-alone basis, or as part of a package provided by internet service providers.

However, both the price and set-top box manufacturer has yet to be decided.

A spokesperson for YouView told BBC News that the door was open for firms to bid for the set-top box contract.

The principle behind YouView is that it should make it easier for viewers to catch up with programmes from the BBC iPlayer, ITV.com and 4OD on their TV set, rather than on a laptop, desktop, or smartphone.

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The service will enable viewers to watch programmes up to seven days after broadcast, along with the ability to search programmes by type, such as films, sport and documentaries.

Mr Halton said the service "combines the best TV with on demand services and internet content".

"I am delighted to be leading the team who will make it a reality."

However, the project has come in from criticism from several quarters.

Sky's director of corporate affairs, Graham McWilliam, has called it "nothing short of BBC mission creep" while Virgin Media lodged a complaint with media regulator Ofcom in August saying it was anti-competitive and could destroy the online TV market.

An earlier scheme, Project Kangaroo, was blocked by the Competition Commission at the start of 2010.

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