Project Canvas, a joint venture between the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, Five and Talk Talk to develop an Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) standard, has been given the provisonal green light by the BBC Trust.
It would see a range of set-top boxes developed to access on-demand TV services such as the BBC iPlayer and ITV Player. They're expected to cost around £200, and could be available next year.
The Trust ruled that Project Canvas would have a series of positive impacts, including furthering the growth of on-demand TV and increasing the opportunities for internet service providers to develop so-called "triple play" – phone/TV/broadband – services.
"After careful consideration, the Trust has provisionally concluded that Canvas is likely to benefit licence fee payers.
We believe Canvas could be an important part of the way in which the BBC delivers its services in the future," says Diane Coyle, chair of the Trust's Strategic Approvals Committee.
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But the Trust did find that the project may slow the growth of pay TV and contribute to the shrinking of the DVD rental market.
Ms Coyle said there was no reason why companies such as Sky shouldn't charge for services on the platform.
The Trust imposed the following conditions on the BBC:
* The core technical specification must be published well in advance to allow manufacturers to adapt to the Canvas standard.
* Other content providers must have access to the platform.
* Any quality standards for internet service providers must be applied on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis.
* A Trust review, 12 months after its launch, will assess the effects Canvas has on the partner's incentives to syndicate their content to other platforms.
* The platform must remain accessible without a subscription.
* The BBC must return for further approval if costs exceed those projected by more than 20% in any one year.
* The BBC must report on whether the proposed accessibility features, such as audio description, have been incorporated. The Trust will review the signposting of content and parental controls.