9 07 2008

We’ve been boning up a little on Kangaroo, which is the working title of a video-on-demand player that will incorporate content from BBC Worldwide, Channel 4 and ITV (It’s slated to have the final name of “SeeSaw”).

It’s interesting in itself that three players with different business models and strategies are cooperating on a single VoD service, but the service itself will also allow different business models:

Users will be offered programming for free, rental and buy-to-own, with the intention that Kangaroo provides a “one-stop shop” for all BBC, ITV and Channel 4 content.

The most interesting thing we’ve found though is this blog post by Steve Bowbrick, positing that a referral to the competition commissioner, which has delayed it by six months, may in fact have saved it:

By then the entire market will have shifted again: just remember how different everything looked when Kangaroo was first discussed. Back then (almost exactly a year ago) VoD looked fairly simple: it was going to be a paid-for, walled garden kind of business with TV shows delivered in standalone applications, wrapped in heavy-duty DRM.

Now, led by the BBC’s second-generation streaming iPlayer, VoD looks very different: it’s free, it’s delivered in a browser and DRM is fading fast. The OFT’s decision has handed Kangaroo the opportunity to sit out the next six months of cock-ups and dead ends and time travel to a different context all together. Sure it’s risky (and costly) to sit on your hands for half a year in a fast moving business but the opportunity to watch the other early entrants tripping over their laces and going bust surely can’t be missed.

It’s a scary time for all kinds of media. A quote from the NESTA games industry event on Monday was “Innovation *is* the strategy now”, and this will surely lead to a very high failure rate accompanied by sudden scale changes (in both directions) for businesses. If that seems frightening, doing nothing is the one sure route to total failure.

Steve also points out that the OFT is unlikely to shut the service down, just specify necessary changes. The challenge was initiated by Sky, and its likely that any changes would mandate a degree of openness. So rather than being a standalone player…

It’ll be a platform to begin with. And it’ll probably be a tiered affair, with the investing partners’ shows featured at the top and the stuff from the great unwashed further down or out at the fringes.

There’s a lot more speculation from that point on, but:

a post-OFT Kangaroo looks like a whole different kind of place: Kangaroo 2.0? OpenKangaroo? Sky’s self-interested intervention might have a most unexpected result. It might turn Kangaroo from—let’s face it—a slightly desperate tactical response to the seething grassroots video revolution into a national asset: a focus for the UK’s creative community. The new Kangaroo might be a genuine British hub for the emerging layer of video creators occupying the space below the telly production indies who got their leg up from Channel 4 25 years ago. In fact, it might be ‘a Channel 4 for the rest to us’. I don’t know about you but I’m suddenly finding the prospect of an OFT referral much more interesting than I’d ever expected it could be. Fingers crossed.

Fingers crossed indeed.

(Creative Commons image by Unapower)



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