Advanced Television

Criterion buys SeeSaw

July 14, 2011

By Colin Mann

An investor consortium led by Criterion Capital Partners, together with financial funds and Hollywood investors, has bought, the UK on-demand TV service. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but former owner Arqiva is retaining a 25 per cent stake in the video platform. SeeSaw’s new chairman will be Michael Jackson, who previously served as controller at BBC One and Two as well as CEO at the U.K.’s Channel 4.

SeeSaw was born out of Project Kangaroo, a failed attempt by the BBC and other UK. broadcasters to launch Joint Venture for catch-up TV viewing. Kangaroo was found to be anti-competitive by UK. regulators before it could even get off the ground, and the project’s assets were bought by communications infrastructure and media services company Arqiva for £8 million in 2009. Arqiva used the technology to launch its own video platform under the name SeeSaw in early 2010, growing the service to some 900,00 unique visitors per month. Its revenues came from pre-roll ads and a limited premium subscription service.

SeeSaw’s management team, including controller John Keeling and commercial director Matt Rennie, will stay with the service, including the majority of its 28 staff. SeeSaw had been expected to close down on June 20 after Arqiva had earlier announced it was seeking strategic options, but remained open when buyer interest emerged.

The involvement of Hollywood executives in the buy-out suggests that Criterion may be considering a US roll-out, which would put the service into competition with Hulu.


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