OFT to examine Canvas as Arqiva joins line-up

The Office of Fair Trading, the UK competition regulator, is to examine Project Canvas, the proposed UK over-the-top video-on-demand service backed by the BBC, Channel 4, Five, BT and TalkTalk.

The companies involved in the project have submitted analyses to the OFT setting out why they believe the joint venture doesn’t constitute a qualifying merger under the terms of the Enterprise Act. Speaking on the first day of the IPTV World Forum in London, Richard Halton, director of Project Canvas, said: “We will be making it clear that the coming together of these companies would not constitute a merger.”

Separately, transmission services provider Arqiva, which recently launched the SeeSaw online video service based on technology developed by the BBC for the abortive Kangaroo online video project, has joined the Canvas consortium. Arqiva will be an equal partner in the consortium. “Arqiva has a long history of working with UK broadcasters, including the BBC, to develop digital platforms in the UK,” Halton said. “They have lots of technical and engineering experience and understand hybrid networks.” Halton said Project Canvas now had seven partners that would work together to bring the platform to market. The fact that the partners come from a range of areas, he said, would help to promote the benefits of connected TV services to consumers. “The companies will help to promote to the market the benefits of IPTV in the same way Freeview helped to increased the take-up of digital TV in the UK… Once the Trust gives Canvas full approval, our ambition will be to bring one media brand to the market so people understand connected TV and the benefits it brings.”

Speaking about pay-TV operator Sky’s concerns about Canvas, Halton said any broadcaster could benefit from Canvas. “Sky in particular have their own perspective on this…for any broadcaster that has a wide range of content and wants to get it in front of people, Canvas is pretty exciting, regardless of the business model.”