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UK BBC IPTV Boss Predicts Broadband TV Services to See Huge Growth

Posted: 26th Mar, 2010 By: MarkJ
online videoThe Director of Project Canvas and Internet TV ( IPTV ) Programme's at the BBC, Richard Halton, has told the IPTV World Forum that broadband television services would see a 70% market growth by 2015. In addition it could also help to add up to an additional 870,000 broadband ISP connections in the UK.

At present IPTV services represent less than 10% of the global broadband total, though it is currently growing far more quickly. Point Topic recently revealed that, at the end of 2009, there were over 33 million subscribers which is up 47% in the year and 11% in Q4-2009.

However the UK barely figures into this, with the sidelining of Tiscali TV meaning that BT Vision is the only proper IPTV service left of any significance in the market. Part of the reason for this is a lack of adequate broadband infrastructure. The current UK TV market is also quite aggressive, with two main and well established commercial operators (e.g. Virgin Media and Sky [ Sky Broadband ]) holding the lions share.

Project Canvas UK is an attempt to break the established mould by developing an open standard for broadband TV services that everybody can make use of. The project is a joint venture between TV broadcasters and broadband ISPs, most prominently including the BBC , ITV , BT , TalkTalk , Channel 4 , Channel Five and Arqiva (SeeSaw, formerly Project Kangaroo technology).

Canvas would essentially allow IPTV and online video services , such as the BBC's iPlayer , to be viewed via TV sets. It would also bolt-on traditional Freeview TV channels and PVR recording capabilities. The set-top-boxes could cost up to £200, no monthly fee would apply (unless separate commercial channel/content deals are struck) and they'd be HD-Ready (High Definition TV).

It's easy to understand the attraction of an open standard that could effectively allow almost any ISP to offer their own triple or quad-play of broadband, home phone, TV and or mobile services. Sadly the details are still being kept under lock and key until the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and BBC Trust grant final approval. That is expected around the end of Spring, assuming no competition concerns arise.

Of course the biggest problem for any ISP seeking to offer such a service will be figuring out how they can make money from it. Sky and Virgin Media are well established rivals and buying into their content comes at a price. A freeview service alone will not be enough to entice subscribers, while tackling both the content and network capacity issues are not going to be easy.
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