SeeSaw Beta Verdict: It Ain’t No Hulu, But One Day It Could Be

So, finally we get to see SeeSaw. The would-be web VOD service attempted by Arqiva, after buying up Kangaroo’s unused technology built by Ioko, has opened up to beta testers. My first thoughts…

SeeSaw is clearly inspired by Hulu. The design is highly minimal, spotlighting videos in a carousel (like Hulu and big-screen iPlayer) and playing them against an unobtrusive, gradiated-grey background (like Hulu). There’s an an option by which everything on the page bar the video fades to dark – though, unlike Hulu’s same feature, which is user-controlled, SeeSaw darkens the page on user’s behalf after a short period of no mouse movement.

Good ad exposure: Many of the 4oD shows I tried were preceded by the same video ads you’ll find on TV (15-second spots from the likes of Nivea, Ikea, Grolsch and Kronenberg) and many are prerolled with not one but three ads. SeeSaw will have to see whether viewers consider this an acceptable threshold, as well as whether prerolls are really the best ad format (in some instances, Hulu lets advertisers take over the page behind the video).

Broadcasters each get their own area: But their opportunities for customisation are minimal in SeeSaw’s templately layout, limited to just a logo and background image as well as idents prior to videos starting. Only 4oD, Demand Five and BBCWW content is offered, along with some third-party features about the Olympics.

There’s content control: A “G” rating is offered along with alerts that a show “contains some graphic images, “contains scenes of moderate violence” or “contains mild language”. There are also further parental controls.

Video quality is up to users: Whilst iPlayer now offers variable bitrate streams, which scale up or down automatically depending on available bandwidth, SeeSaw asks users to choose form “Low”, “Medium” or “High”.

The player After the ads, the broadcaster ident and, on some occasions, SeeSaw’s own ident, shows by no means appear immediately, but play consistently well for the duration under an appropriate quality setting. But Times New Roman for the player control bar? No way!

It lacks character: Browsing SeeSaw is like flicking through a contents page with few contents. Hulu, too, took this minimal, ordered approach, but it’s discoverability features are better than SeeSaw’s rudimentary and boxy thematic showcase (“Classic comedy”, “The best years of your life?” and “Critically-acclaimed modern drama” are all front-page collections).

Solitary, not social: There’s not yet any embedding, no reviews or ratings, discussions, tags, no send-to-Facebook features.

For now, SeeSaw is a conservative service that gives basic exposure to a small number of the key broadcasters’ shows, and refrains from doing much more. On features, there’s little incentive to use SeeSaw over another service that offers the same videos – broadcasters’ own sites, for example, include much of the surrounding data and more about their own shows. But SeeSaw’s trump card will come if it can get so much TV content that it becomes irresistable as a one-stop-shop for catch-up viewers.