Just how many broadband TV portals can a single market support? A question the UK may soon be facing up to, writes Julian Clover.
This week saw the launch of SeeSaw, the much anticipated public iteration of Kangaroo, the project that was to have brought together the on demand services of the UK’s public broadcasters.
It was just the technical assets of Kangaroo that were purchased by the transmission company Arqiva, but it is clear that many of the ideas that had been featured in the new operation, even the SeeSaw brand was once mooted as the public name for Kangaroo.
SeeSaw is a mix of catch-up and what you might call recurrent content. The catch-up comes from Channel 4 and Five, while BBC Worldwide is brought in to provide recent BBC series. Independent producers mask the fact there is no direct content from ITV.
John Keeling, who at one time ran the UKTV archive channels and is now SeeSaw’s platform controller, says the viewers won’t notice such subtleties in the content. Their interest in the site will be in watching great content, advertising supported for now, and later with pay-per-view and subscription elements.
Directly or indirectly, SeeSaw will be competing with the catch-up services provided by the terrestrial channels, along with VOD from Sky and Virgin Media, not forgetting the video elements of Apple’s iTunes store.
SeeSaw will run an advertising campaign from the end of February. The BBC and ITV run a near hourly promotion for their catch-up services. Unlike the BBC, ITV also points to the commercial platforms where you can see its content, specifically Virgin Media and BT Vision. The BBC iPlayer is a key plank of Virgin’s free VOD content and one wonders how good the figures might be if the BBC was more willing to acknowledge its existence.
Episodes of recent series from the US and the UK can be purchased from around 40 studios for just a couple of pounds. The differentiator that SeeSaw hopes to bring in will be the editorial element that will recommend programmes based on current events or the popularity of new series currently playing out on linear television.
One of my fellow hacks at the launch event wondered out loud that surely other portals would take the same approach, but maybe that’s the point. It’s a little like being a Radio Times or a TV Times household. People will choose the environment in which they feel the most comfortable,
Just before Christmas, Ofcom released details of a study in which it sought to define content that could be perceived as ‘TV like’. One observation that stuck in my mind was that while the young are happy to take the multiscreen approach, viewing on the PC when it suited them, when possible they made a return to the living room. The older you got the more you preferred (or wanted) on demand content to be on the TV, not the PC. SeeSaw’s tentative talks with the set-top box sector suggest this little battle will be fought out across all screens.