We've always wanted to have access to catch-up TV services piped directly into our TV. iPlayer, 4oD, Demand Five and ITV Player are all well and good, but they are PC-based systems. The problem with watching the current crop of services on a TV is the bit rate is generally pretty low, so they don't scale well to HD TV screen sizes. The solution is an IPTV offering that delivers archive and catch-up TV via the Internet to a set-top box. This is what Project Canvas is trying to make possible.
Currently, Canvas is a partnership between the BBC, ITV and BT, but today we learned from CNET UK's sister-site silicon.com that Five would be joining the group involved in Canvas. This is terrific news, because the more broadcasters get involved, the more choice there'll be on the service. Because the idea of Canvas is to provide a platform on which any broadcaster is welcome, it could be the start of a whole new way to watch TV. It could, in effect, be the new Freeview. Now, we just need Channel 4 to sign up, and that's all the old-school terrestrial broadcasters covered.
Canvas is not significantly related to the defunct Project Kangaroo, which was an attempt to create a unified online system for people to catch up with TV online. That system was eventually ruled as unfair because it excluded certain parties. Of course, the parties it excluded were mostly Sky, which has its own system called Sky Player, which is only available to subscribers. We were annoyed when Kangaroo was shutdown, because it would be good to see all catch-up TV using the same quality and standards as the BBC does.
Another reason to pique your excitement is that Internet delivery could potentially include high definition too. At the moment, HD is some time away over Freeview, with freesat providing a fairly lacklustre HD offering. Of course, not many broadband lines have the capability to send HD-quality video live, but for pre-recorded shows, it should be possible to load content on to PVR-like devices overnight. These files could easily be locked and simply unlock themselves once the show has aired. It would give people great flexibility, and the opportunity to enjoy HD without a satellite dish.
It goes without saying that ISPs and groups that represent ISPs absolutely hate the idea of video delivered over the Internet. This is because it costs them a great deal of money to deliver this content, and, for the most part, their networks are very badly designed and incapable of supporting lots of streamed video. One company that isn't worried is Be, which told us some time ago that its network was built from the ground-up to make Internet video a real possibility.