3view MD 'concerned by Project Canvas'

Monday, April 19 2010, 10:26 BST

By Andrew Laughlin,

3view managing director John Donovan has said that he is "concerned" about the potential market impact of IPTV joint venture Project Canvas.

At the end of May, 3view's new hybrid Freeview HD receiver will officially launch in retail outlets. The set top box supports access to all standard and high definition Freeview channels, along with a range of video on-demand content.

Interestingly, the receiver further enables users to access a variety of web services, including YouTube, Twitter and Amazon, via an in-built browser.

Project Canvas, which includes the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, TalkTalk, BT and Arqiva among its members, is proposing to upgrade the Freeview and Freesat platforms to support VOD and internet content.

However, Donovan believes that the launch of 3view's hybrid receiver and other forthcoming products will make the Canvas proposition appear rather unnecessary.

The firm's Freeview HD box will support access to BBC iPlayer, but Donavan said that no one from the corporation has contacted him to discuss the potential impact of Canvas.

"The honest answer is that no one has spoken to me from the BBC about what Canvas will entail," he told Digital Spy.

"We do not understand what Canvas' remit will be and we do not subscribe to the belief that Canvas will provide something the commercial market can't. We have proved that we can do it."

Echoing similar criticism from Sky and Virgin Media, Donovan believes that Canvas will create a publicly-funded dominant player in the IPTV market at the expense of commercial rivals.

However, he also believes that the fate of previous web-TV initiative Project Kangaroo, which was blocked by the Competition Commission, could be repeated with Canvas.

"I think Kangaroo's fate will probably be the same for Canvas. That was a project that got binned basically. Canvas may not be good news for people like us as it could be a big, big competitor, a state backed one too. I am not pro-Canvas," he said.

"Its difficult at the moment to say what Canvas will do or what impact it will have on us until its made very clear in their business plan, which nobody really knows outside the BBC. I am concerned about it though.

He added: "As a small business that is doing some great technology, which I think the consumer really wants, it could stop that. It could actually stop consumers from getting access to this technology and we're the only country in the world that I know where that could happen."

Donovan declined to be drawn on whether 3view would consider a legal challenge to Canvas, but he did say that his business will defend its ability to compete in the market.

"I think we would have to reserve comment [on possible legal action]. But at this stage, clearly, we will protect our business at all costs. And I think, we will just have to leave it there for the moment," he said.

"We are not going to be put into a position where we become uncompetitive and also restricted in what we can do. We are doing a really good job and the industry and media are behind us.

He added: "Clearly there is an appetite for this sort of product. We have got a huge amount of support, and this product actually exists. The product is working, there are no smoke and mirrors. If we can get the box into the high street, then the consumer will think it is fantastic; so why do we need Canvas or a service like that?"

Last month, the Canvas partners made a submission to the Office of Fair Trading as part of efforts to alleviate concerns that the project will create a monopoly player in the nascent IPTV market.