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BBC backs new internet TV plan

21 February 2008

The BBC is backing a _10.6m research project to shape the future of internet TV. The four year pan-European project, dubbed P2P-Next, aims to create a platform that would enable audiences to stream and interact with live content via a PC or set-top box, writes Adrian Pennington.

Building on technology developed at the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology, the project aims to hone live streaming using peer-to-peer delivery, a form of distribution increasingly seen as a viable means for distributing large volumes of video since it potentially overcomes bandwidth bottlenecks. The technology could potentially be built into future on-demand services and plans are underway to test the system for major broadcasting events.

Currently the majority of internet TV services, such as Joost and Bablegum which use P2P technology, offer pre-recorded content for streaming or download.

“Our ambition is to refine live streaming which we don’t think anyone has done successfully,” said George Wright who heads up the R&D team within the BBC’s Future Media department. “Current ways of delivering internet TV started out in development four to five years ago. We intend to build for the future and look at ways an audience can interact with live streaming content in the same they can now with interactive TV.”

Live sports events such as football matches he says could be streamed with the ability for users to choose different camera angles or select replays.

“Live appointment to view programming along the lines of today’s broadcasts is also an option,” Wright said.

No content has yet been selected for trial although plans include the broadcast of high definition channels. The project’s partners will also explore ways by which consumers can find content from an internet EPG including the possible design of a new search engine, ways of collecting micro-payments and tracking video files.

“It’s crucial for consumers to know that the file they are downloading or streaming is the one that the legal content owner has sent out and is not a pirated copy,” says Wright. “We aim to guarantee that when someone accesses a file it’s the correct, legal version.”

There are no plans as yet to build a consumer product from the project. It is being build using open source software so that all results will be freely available. Other partners include the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Lancaster University, Markenfilm, Pioneer Digital Design Centre Limited and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

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