Five joins Project Canvas broadcasters

The UK's IPTV project gathers momentum with the addition of broadcaster Five

UK TV broadcaster Five has announced it has joined Project Canvas.

Project Canvas — a joint venture between the BBC, BT and ITV, announced in December last year — will provide UK homes with access to IPTV via a broadband-enabled set-top box, in much the same way as Freeview and Freesat currently do with digital TV.

Five chairman and chief executive, Dawn Airey, said in a statement: "Project Canvas is an important step forward, because it will extend choice and significantly improve the television experience for viewers. Its widespread adoption is central to driving Digital Britain."

The addition of Five means Channel 4 remains the only free-to-air terrestrial broadcaster that has not signed up for Canvas and suggests momentum for the project is growing, despite being scrutinised by the independent regulator, the BBC Trust, to ensure it does not create any competition issues and represents a good use of licence payers' money.

The trust recently asked for more information from the BBC to help with its decision on Canvas. If the service is approved, Canvas is expected to be available by the end of 2010.

Richard Halton, programme director of IPTV at the BBC, said the aim is to make Canvas flexible enough for as many vendors, and network and content providers to get involved as possible.

He added that there is significant market for free-to-air television, which comes with all the same functionality benefits as subscription services, as shown by the 10 million homes now using Freeview.

"We want to make sure that we continue to deliver their expectations of that functionality as the pay platforms themselves innovate," he said.

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