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Exclusive: Canvas to save bandwidth with local drives

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Canvas to save bandwidth with local drives
Digital TV boxes compatible with the Canvas IPTV project will include local storage to reduce the amount of bandwidth needed to deliver popular programmes on demand.

BBC programme director, IPTV Richard Halton told Digital Spy that the development will ease video on demand usage costs for internet service providers because the boxes will be able to play back content recorded off linear broadcast television and stored locally instead of pulling it on demand from the internet.

In June, the BBC criticised BT for throttling the amount of bandwidth available on its lowest service tier for streaming video services during peak times. In response, BT said that it could no longer give content providers a "free ride" on its network.

At the request of the BBC Trust, the BBC Executive recently published additional information on the Canvas joint venture, which aims to develop a new standard for the delivery of content to broadband-enabled set top boxes.

In new guidance recently published following a BBC Trust request, the BBC has identified measures to mitigate the load on internet service providers in regards to the heavy bandwidth usage associated with IPTV. Speaking in an interview with Digital Spy, Halton said that "connected television is about different industries coming together - content providers, ISPs and manufacturers - and everyone comes to that business with their own costs and their own revenue opportunities".

He added that there are ways to mitigate some of the costs that are generated with IPTV, which is especially important when "trying to create a horizontal platform where no one ISP, broadcaster or manufacturers has control".

The Canvas team has, therefore, proposed to utilise storage options in the device to enable content to be taken off air. This would mean that popular programmes will be placed on a fixed storage position for users to download, thus avoiding multiple streams over the networks at the same time.

"The best example is that on a Monday, 25% of our iPlayer traffic is from last night's Top Gear. So why have a million people playing Top Gear over their ISP on Monday, instead just drop it into the hard drive as soon as it has been broadcast," said Halton.

"This will mean that when the consumer presses play on iPlayer in the Canvas box they won't know if it coming from IP or over the hard drive, and they won't care either. If we put it in the box, it takes all of the load from the networks and reduces the cost for them."

Halton said that figures compiled by the BBC have indicated that 40% of traffic on Canvas boxes could "be offset by programmes being intelligently recorded onto the box".

Competition in the web TV marketplace is currently growing strongly, with transmission firm Arqiva recently completing its purchase of the VOD technology developed for the ill feted joint venture Kangaroo, with a view to launching its own service in the near future.

It was announced this week that BBC Worldwide has agreed a deal with BlinkBox to make 300 hours of BBC programming available on the video on demand platform.

NBC Universal, News Corporation and Disney VOD joint venture Hulu is also thought to be preparing for an imminent UK launch as competition to become the main online TV aggregator continues apace.

Halton said that all these initiatives will be "good for Canvas" as this creates more choice and competition for consumers at potentially lower prices. However, he stressed that Canvas will not aggregate content or have a revenue function, instead it will just provide a platform for a range of content from various providers, with creative control solely in their hands.

"What I think is interesting about Canvas is that it is attributable to Freeview, which is a success because it is a very simple proposition. Its relatively neutral and open in terms of content, anyone who has a DTT channel that is free-to-air can go on it," he explained.

"For consumers, there is no subscription attached to it and Canvas just takes those values and then shows what is possible if you apply them to the connected space. So you end with a grown up Freeview offering which leads to a massively wider availability.

"Then its up to consumers to decide whether they are willing to pay for content on the platform, but there is no requirement to do so when they sign up. You just buy the box."

> Read our full Canvas Q&A with Richard Halton

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