Canvas clearance 

19 May 2010 tbs.pm/1187

Yes it’s true: Project Canvas has just been given the go-ahead by the Office of Fair Trading, so in theory this long-awaited means of providing a quick and convenient means of accessing programme-related online content via a television set could finally launch as planned by the end of this year.

Of course Canvas won’t be entering this market alone, with Apple, Google and Microsoft all having their plans for dominating this particular market for online video provision, but it certainly helps that the major manufacturers have so far failed to agree on a common standard as well as other countries (eg. Germany) already having their own online ‘portals’.

Its Kangaroo predecessor – now sold to Arquiva and operating as SeeSaw – was canned by the Competition Commission (who might still have something to say about Canvas), but the OFT has rightly recognised that Project Canvas is merely an attempt to set a standard as opposed to Kangaroo’s more problematic joint business venture proposal.

The two main opponents to Project Canvas are BSkyB and Virgin Media, who are normally bitter rivals but have common ground in representing two existing video distribution technologies (satellite and cable) that are conceivably threatened by online programme distribution even though both companies also provide internet services.

Project Canvas has the great potential to cut free from some of the proprietary methods that are currently employed, which is obviously a concern for both Sky and Virgin’s dominance of the pay-TV market as it stands, therefore it’s no surprise that BSkyB in particular has tried to do as much as it can to derail the Canvas proposal.

Of course BSkyB could still try to subvert Project Canvas by other means before/after it has the chance to launch, but both time and options are running out in this regard. BSkyB in particular hates to have obstacles in its path so what happens next will be particularly interesting.

Project Canvas represents a golden opportunity to level the playing field for UK broadcasting, which should be good news for viewers who are fed up with differing standards, so let’s hope that Canvas finally launches as planned without any unnecessary further delays.