The weeks two top stories, the Competition Commission’s ruling on Kangaroo and the first round of Premier League bidding, might both be defining moments in UK pay-TV says Julian Clover
Two stories this week that brought with them implications for the market. Details on the Competition Commissions disposal of Kangaroo came at much the same time as it emerged that Sky had retained at least four of the six live Premier League packages.
The game changer is arguably in what will happen to the other two, where Setanta Sports holds the rights through until the end of the next season. Setanta’s two packages are just one element in the broadcaster’s portfolio, but its ambitions will be severely dented were it to lose one or more of them.
The candidate most likely to pick up the final two packages is ESPN, which has grown both its European television business, just as it has its online portfolio. European Union rules allow one broadcaster to own up to five packages, so in theory Sky could still pick up a fifth set of games, and has signalled its intention to enter the next round of bidding.
Meanwhile the boxing Kangaroo has seemingly thrown in the towel. The BBC Worldwide-ITV-Channel 4 joint venture has been deemed to be in breach of competition rules. So instead of the on demand super portal, each will presumably continue with their separate offerings, with ITV due to make an announcement in the next few weeks.
What Kangaroo would have provided would be a ‘one-stop’ shop for online content. Virgin Media, which was one of the leading opponents of the venture already achieves this with its cable on demand offer, the key difference of course being that Virgin is largely offering other people’s content rather than its own. Key to Virgin, and any other aggregator, is that you can more or less the same experience whatever content you are searching for.
This may become something that the BBC can deliver into Freesat, and perhaps Freeview boxes, through Project Canvas. Opening up either delivery mechanism has more chance of getting Granny into the joys of on demand than having her go through a succession of slightly differing websites online. It was an interesting move when Sky added links to the BBC iPlayer from its own Sky Player, so the Sky subscriber has a place where they can get subscription and public service content, more such arrangements are needed.
The consumer needs portals where they can get the majority of what they need, just as shopping around for the supermarket with the cheapest soap powder is all very well unless you use all your petrol in the process.