SeeSaw goes live

From Colin Mann in London

Online TV service SeeSaw has launched to the public, having been in beta testing to 20,000 people since January 26th. It currently offers over 3,000 hours of content for free, with plans to introduce paid-for premium content “within a couple of months” according to John Keeling, Platform Controller. SeeSaw aims to offer a further 2,000 hours of programming on the service for the pay launch.

The service has been set up by SeeSaw from the assets of ITV, Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide’s defunct Project Kangaroo video-on-demand venture. The partners were forced to scrap their plans for an online service following a Competition Commission ruling. SeeSaw’s parent company, broadcast infrastructure specialist Arqiva, paid £8 million for Kangaroo’s assets last year.

The site currently features catch up programming and archive material from Channel 4, and Five, and BBC Worldwide. ITV is not currently participating in the service, although a number of familiar ITV shows are available on the site, as independent producers retain the rights to certain titles. The free model is currently funded by advertising revenue, with pre and mid-roll spots, featuring advertisers such as Ikea, Diageo and Kraft.

Pierre-Jean Sebert, CEO SeeSaw, confirmed that the service wanted its content to be seen by as many people as possible, and was investigating distribution beyond the laptop and the PC. “We are discussing with set-top box manufacturers, TV manufacturers and game console manufacturers to understand how we can launch the experience onto these devices.” He added that central to this strategy was Canvas – the proposed open Internet-connected TV platform partnership between the BBC, ITV, C4, Five, BT and Talk Talk. “We are looking closely into what the Canvas development will be and we hope that we are capable of having SeeSaw proposed to users on one or several of these routes to market,” he revealed.

SeeSaw faces potential competition from Google-owned YouTube, which has begun offering full-length TV shows, with Channel 4 and Five providing content. Microsoft’s MSN Video Player UK has been in a beta pilot phase since August 2009. In addition, Hulu, the US VOD service backed by NBU Universal, Disney and News Corp, is expected to launch in the UK and is understood to have discussed an exclusive content deal with ITV in return for taking a stake in the business. “The door is open for ITV,” said Keeling. “They have a new chief executive arriving and they have said that they are looking at their digital strategy. Until they have decided, I don't think they'll be making any moves.”

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