SeeSaw’s No-Frills TV Site Planning PPV, Subs, U.S. Shows

SeeSaw will introduce PPV in Q2 and is investigating offering a subscription addition later, bosses of Arqiva’s new TV VOD website said at their official launch this morning.

The service, which has 30 to 40 staff in Arqiva’s Regent Street office and inherited some staff from the defunct Kangaroo, so far only has Channel 4 and Five catch-up shows plus old BBC Worldwide shows. But it’s confident of doubling its 3,000-hour catalogue in a couple of months, upon which it will add “Rent this episode” and “Rent this series” options. Newer BBC Worldwide shows are secured for these models and SeeSaw is courting U.S. studios for the same.

SeeSaw declined to give any indication of pricepoint or payment method, nor audience targets saying it’s too early. In truth, there’s little here that other VOD sites don’t already have – BBCWW PPV is common to the likes of iTunes and Blinkbox, while YouTube, whose TV ambitions loom large, has C4 and Five, for example.

But that’s okay by SeeSaw’s chiefs, who told a crowd this morning that their trump cards are simplicity and a promise to drive discoverability through editorialisation…

“SeeSaw is all about TV – nothing else. It’s just proper full-length telly,” platform controller John Keeling said. “Yes, other people have this content – content owners are hedging their bets, we’re fine with that – you can go and watch the content in the environment you choose as a user.” SeeSaw could even curate its own pages to match Channel 4’s recent Indian season of shows, or could surface Footballer’s Wives to coincide with John Terry’s marital indiscretions, Keeling suggested as examples.

Right now, SeeSaw is a no-frills shop window for shows and a showcase for the ads that are stuck on them, clearly “designed for both viewers and advertisers” as Keeling put it. Pages eschew display advertising and the experience is minimal – perhaps too spartan – focusing hard on the video. The quality is excellent, despite not yet being true HD. But viewers must sit through up to two 30-second pre-roll ads before watching their show, with a similar mid-roll possible later.

“Advertisers love it,” Keeling said. Indeed, 17 brands including Swiftcover are on-board from launch, but they have had little to do – SeeSaw is simply re-using the same creative used for standard TV commercials. Still, “We feel we are offering something very different for the brands,” CEO Jean-Pierre Sebert said. But, while these work between shows in the living room, will they keep web users switched on? SeeSaw will investigate other formats like overlays later on.

C4 and Five are selling their own ads, just like on YouTube, though the service declined to discuss revenue split. Ads on other content are sold by Video Initiatives. SeeSaw’s own marketing campaign started with paid-search today, continues with a TV commercial targeting “early adopters” on February 26 and will target “mainstream, family” audiences upon the later PPV addition.

Lacking, if SeeSaw is to make good on its excellent brand name and become a big UK VOD aggregator, are shows from ITV (LSE: ITV) and the BBC. ITV have a new CEO arriving and have publicly said they are looking at their digital strategy,” Keeling said. “Until they’ve decided what they’re going to do, they won’t be making any moves. But the door is open – we’d love to talk to them.”

Landing non-commercial BBC shows could be complicated by disputed iPlayer syndication guidelines that are still shaking out. To fill the gaps, SeeSaw is taking shows from independent producers and rightsholders like TalkBack, Shed and Digital Rights Group, who, since 2004 terms-of-trade agreements, now own more rights to the shows they make for the networks. “We welcome them with open arms,” Keeling added.

Pay-for shows will be “seamless” within the site, Sebert said: “We dont want to do SeeSaw Free and SeeSaw Paid.” But its deployment of either depends entirely on rightsowners’ own preference. UK PSBs have turned away from PPV for catch-up shows, so SeeSaw won’t simply be charging for those shows minus ads – instead, it will have to charge for a different line-up – that’s why it’s keeping the best, new BBCWW shows back for paid and is seeking big-hitting U.S. dramas and comedy.

“Just think DVD boxsets,” Keeling said. “If you went in to a store to buy a DVD, that’s the kind of content you’re going to see available to rent. We’ll have the latest seasons of those series as soon as they’ve finished bcasting on TV.” He wouldn’t name series, but we’d expect the likes of Doctor Who, Spooks and, if it can get U.S. deals, Lost and Ugly Betty – the kind of stuff already on iTunes Store.

The “See-Saw” name seems to connote both live (“see”) and archive (“saw”) viewing. Only “saw” launched today, but the service is due to investigate carrying live TV, too.

There was tentative mention of “talks” with set-top-box and games console makers, and it would like carriage on the Canvas IPTV platform that’s due to launch next year – but, just hours after launching, Keeling and Sebert must know it’s very early days on that.