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Project Canvas becomes YouView

And gets a CEO

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Project Canvas has a CEO and a name now - it’s YouView™. BBC insider Richard Halton, a veteran of the corporation’s Strategy Boutique, will lead the venture, reporting to chairman Kip Meek.

Canvas is an attempt to create a reference specification for IP-connected TVs. The joint venture is supported by the established public service broadcasters, BT, mast monopoly Aquiva, and Carphone Warehouse TalkTalk. Halton, as director of PC, was the BBC’s point man on FreeView and has been its most prominent supporter of Canvas, so it’s really a formal promotion.

A fortnight ago the BBC's Mark Thompson admitted that Project Cartel Canvas was about control - but argued that the PSBs controlling a technical platform was much better for us than a Google or Microsoft.

Halton himself has previously touted Canvas in interviews as “an open source model”, but it’s anything but, and this week the UK’s Open Source Consortium lodged a formal complaint with OFCOM, describing it as “another walled garden” that diminishes consumer choice. Canvas mandates a particular DRM, for example.

Canvas insiders say the project grew legs because industry-wide TV standards develop too slowly, and are technically inadequate. It’s hard to criticise it for failing to innovate, or adding some variety to the marketplace.

Quite apart from the regulatory aspects, and the giant political battles they entail, the biggest problem YouView faces is a commercial one. Canvas is a content plus technology bundle – but the fact is we already enjoy that content for free via FreeView. So what make somebody rush out and buy a Canvas box, which will be priced at between £150 and £300? HD we can already get, much cheaper. Series-stacking and replay? Web widgets and the app store?

It’s going to be fascinating to watch. ®

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