BBC's web TV project to "spawn a whole new industry"

Canvas paints a bright future for developers

Canvas paints a bright future for developers

Project Canvas, the broadcast industry initiative to establish a common IPTV standard, could see the creation of a new software industry, according to the BBC's tech boss.

Canvas, expected to go live in 2010, is a collaboration between the BBC, BT and ITV to develop a platform to carry on-demand content to new broadband-enabled TV receivers.

Auntie's head of Future Media and Technology, Erik Huggers, told Canvas could become a way to distribute third-party software applications, as well as bring content to the nation's living rooms via the internet.

"The ability for the Canvas platform to become more of a software platform that allows third-party application developers to build applications that they can get distribution for in the living room, could potentially spawn a whole new industry," he said.

"If you think about the marriage of linear digital broadcasting with the power and flexibility of the open internet, it's quite tantalising. The ability to have services like the iPlayer in your living room by just buying a device that is Canvas-enabled is exciting," Huggers added.

iPlayer, the BBC's web on-demand TV service, now has more than a million programme requests per month.

In an exclusive interview with, Huggers said the advent of Canvas is vital to the health of free-to-air programming.

"I think [Canvas] is a big opportunity to future proof the free-to-air-television platforms in this country," he said. "If you look at things like Freeview and freesat, these are platforms that have been massively successful."

Internet viewing has often been painted as a threat to traditional TV programming. However, research by market researcher Nielsen last year found the average time spent watching TV has actually increased year-on-year. Nevertheless, viewing TV over the web is also on the rise, accounting for two hours of consumers' viewing time each month during the third quarter of 2008.

For Huggers, however, content rather than technology will be what persuades users to adopt the Canvas platform.

"Our role [with Canvas] is to set an open industry standard and drive adoption by creating fantastic services that will get people to want to have that, because at the end of the day technology's all great but it's the content that matters."