EU to sink $20.5 mil into Internet TV project

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BRUSSELS -- The European Union is investing 14 million euros ($20.5 million) in the P2P Next research project aimed at using peer-to-peer for Internet television. The project gathers the BBC and the EBU as well as 19 universities and data industry partners in building an open-source solution with video-on-demand functions.

P2P is a Europe-wide consortium working on a system that uses the Tribler file-sharing technology and the Python programming language. It is expected to help broadcasters find better ways to reach the TV-downloading online audience and offer high quality on-demand television.

"We are building a new, cross-platform, Free/Open Source software-based, legal, peer-to-peer system," said George Wright, head of the BBC's Future Media & Technology Department.

The service is aimed at different types of devices so that content can be shared between PCs and set-top boxes, and it would also have some level of customization to allow specialist interest groups to build around programs and subject areas.

The EU funding will account for the lion's share of the project's 19 million euros ($27.8 million) budget over four years. The project aims to build Mac, Windows and GNU/Linux clients,as well as dedicated hardware set-top box customers to deliver an open standards-based "next-generation" Internet television distribution system.

The P2P Next team insists that the system will not replace BBC consumer offerings such as iPlayer, but will rather be a test bed for new ideas, promoting collaboration with colleagues across Europe. "If successful, this ambitious project could create a platform that would enable audiences to stream and interact with live content via a PC or set-top box," P2P Next said in a statement.

"In addition, it is our intention to allow audiences to build communities around their favorite content via a fully personalized system. This technology could potentially be built into VOD services in the future and plans are underway to test the system for broadcasting the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest live online."
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