A common industry approach to on-demand TV over broadband could prove to be a real tipping point for small and independent content creators argues Will Strauss.

Last week there was an announcement that looks to be fairly important in the move towards delivering content to the living room via the internet.

In short:

  • BT, BBC and ITV are to work together to develop and promote a common industry approach and consumer offer that will deliver on-demand TV over broadband.

  • The initiative, known as Project Canvas, will be open to all public service broadcasters, device developers and other ISPs, and is intended to include a wider group of partners by launch.

  • The new standard should result in broadband-connected Freeview-type boxes offering catch-up TV services as well as normal and HD TV.

Read more about it here

Tipping point

If this comes to something, it could prove to be the tipping point for online programme/content creation as it will help to make watching ‘web’ content in the living room a universal possibility.

This is fairly key for those creators and producers who are looking for different ways to service the public’s thirst for tailored, interactive, dedicated or different media - and also want to make their content easily accessible.

With IPTV and broadband, web and Internet TV all converging (although IPTV is often defined as being delivered across a closed IP network) the real change will come when broadband connections at home are plugged directly in to the back of a living room TV.

Right now, boxes that put internet TV content on to your TV set (such as Apple TV, Slingcatcher, or the recent release from HP), cost lots and are ‘closed’. The price of the boxes and the services - plus the reluctance for people to have lots of different set-top boxes in their living rooms - are barriers to adoption.

However, a universal box that provides both traditional TV content and on-demand ‘web content’; that doesn’t cost the earth; and that has free content on it; will help to break down those barriers.

This means wider adoption of iPlayer and ITV Player in the first instance. But it could also mean - because the project is open to ISPs and the like - content from other parties such as aggregator services, the likes of Youtube and any other streaming content provider.

If the BBC/BT/ITV project provides a single box that does all that and pumps it into your TV set, we are in business.

Huge opportunities

It will provide massive opportunities for small content producers not least because it breaks down more of the distribution barriers.

If combo boxes are cheap enough and universally adopted then small content producers can bypass broadcasters entirely and make their way into the living room using ISPs, websites, aggregators or their own portals. And potentially get reasonably sized audiences.

The little guy can make it big and, because becoming mainstream becomes easier, more producers will want to get involved and so it will grow.

I may be talking about something that will happen several stages down the line but this is one potentially very positive outcome of this exciting project.

If it does work, though, at some point someone will have to come up with a solution for searching/filtering all these different streams. That means a Google or an EPG that finds live, on-demand and web content at the same time.

And that sounds a lot more complicated.