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BBC, ITV propose 'open' TV-over-net platform

Project Kangaroo alternative jump-started

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Having had their plan to combine their broadband TV services kyboshed by the Competition Commmission, the BBC and ITV today said they plan to do it anyway - but this time to open up the infrastructure to all comers.

The two broadcasters, along with BT, said they want to foster a "common industry approach" that's "open for all public service broadcasters, device developers and other ISPs". All this will be founded upon "a standards based open environment".

Last week, the Competition Commission ruled against Project Kangaroo, a unified website through which the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 had hoped to deliver their programming over broadband - and make money out of it by selling on-site advertising.

Other broadcasters, most notably Sky and Virgin Media, claimed such a scheme would restrict competition.

As an ISP, Virgin Media also has a downer on the service because of its capacity to gobble up bandwidth, as shown by the BBC's popular iPlayer TV-over-the-net service.

The new move should provide a framework for Virgin and co. to participate, and to build whatever service emerges from the initiative into its set-top boxes, phones and other gadgets.

How truly open it will be remains to be seen. Right now, DRM technology is employed by the BBC and others to ensure programmes are not archived - why buy DVD when you can get the show off iPlayer for free? - and not viewed by folk outside the UK to whom British broadcasters may not have a licence to send content to.

If the project is too open, how all that works will be exposed, potentially allowing the limitations to be side-stepped.

While the content will be provided free of charge, how will ancillary revenue - from website ads, say - be collected from third-party sites presenting the content and then divided up among the content sources? The commercial side needs to be worked out in as much detail as the technology does.

It's no surprise, then, that the partners announced no timetable for the development of the service.

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