The BBC is hoping to establish an open industry platform to enable internet television services. The project is codenamed Canvas. Erik Huggers, the director of future media and technology at the corporation, gave a few details in an interview at the Mipcom show in Cannes. The BBC is also planning to use Adobe AIR to provide a cross-platform download client.
“The iPlayer has been a great success story,” said Erik Huggers. “We’re also interested in making it available on devices on the go and in the living room.” The catch-up programming is already available on a number of mobile devices and on the Nintendo Wii, Sony PS3 and via Virgin Media cable television. The problem that the BBC faces lies in making a different version available for every possible device.
“Can there be an open IPTV standard that device makers can adopt to enable direct to consumer delivery of on-demand content in the living room?” he asked. “An open IPTV standard that comes with a simple to use navigation paradigm, taking the lessons that we’ve learned elsewhere into consideration.”
“We get to a world of what I would call platform-neutral publishing,” he said. “Can you therefore publish to all these devices without having to build multiple different implementations?”
He emphasised that while this is an exciting topic, it is dependent on approval from the BBC Trust and that there is nothing formal planned at this stage.
“There is a lot of technology that needs to come to bear to make this work in an open environment,” he said.”My best guess is that it is a year to a year and a half away if everything is approved.”
Could this be a way for Kangaroo, to find its way onto the television screen? The joint venture video initiative between the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 is currently under investigation by the Competition Commission.
Ashley Highfield, now the head of Kangaroo, speaking in a later session, said he did not expect any favours from his successor at the BBC. He said: “I would be more than happy to get on to an open box and then let the best man win.”
Separately, the BBC is planning to use the Adobe Air Integrated Runtime to make downloads available across Windows, Mac and Linux platforms for the first time. Currently, while programmes can be streamed using Adobe Flash, higher quality downloads are only available using Microsoft Windows Media. The new downloads will still be protected with digital rights management.
Since making programmes immediately available as streams, the number of streams exceeds the number of downloads by a ratio of 13:1. That is partly due to the need to install a download manager that only works with Microsoft Windows.
The Adobe AIR platform allows the creation of a single application that can be installed in a Windows, Mac or Linux runtime environment.