VOD In Slow-Mo: SeeSaw’s Launch Hazy, ITV Protects Its ‘Crown Jewels’

Even Arqiva appears unconvinced that it can launch SeeSaw from the remains of Project Kangaroo before year’s end – just one indication that, despite a raging UK VOD arms race, none of the contenders are in sight of victory.

I will see it in a year ending with ’09’ – whether you will is a different matter,” John Keeling, VOD platform controller with the infrastructure vendor more commonly known for managing TV transmitters, told Screen Digest’s Future of Online Media Distribution seminar.

Keeling, whose appointment was announced on September 4, said: “We could go to beta tomorrow. Our view is we want to make sure we’ve got exactly the right product with the right content on it.”

Therein lays the rub. SeeSaw should be announcing broadcaster deals about now, but the wannabes are gathering, with Hulu seeking a UK foothold, BBC still offering iPlayer to counterparts, Joost offering its platform and several parties aiming to show VOD on TV via Canvas.

In this melee, it’s a land grab for content rights – and the rightsholders are hesitant. ITV (LSE: ITV) digital VP Jason Binks told the room: “We don’t see licensing out as detrimental to our own ITV.com. What we’ve found, though, is a lot of the business terms these new companies are going to the table with just don’t add up.” Ouch!

“You don’t want to license to all and sundry because then you diminish the ad revenue you derive from these services.”

Binks acknowledged “the Microsofts, Blinkboxes, Hulus and Googles of this world” amongst all the contenders and, perhaps addressing Keeling’s SeeSaw, said: “It’s very much in its infancy. the model is still not fully baked. you don’t want to release you crown jewels until you’ve mulled over all the alternatives. You’re not going to get advertising until you’ve got eyeballs, so you’re launching from a standing start. What’s your differentiator in the marketplace?”

So… a chicken-and-egg scenario? “The egg hasn’t hatched yet!,” Binks declared.