SeeSaw Shuts After Buy-Out Cash Fails To Arrive

Looks like it is finally all over for troubled UK TV VOD aggregator SeeSaw, whose homepage now reads: “Thanks for your support but SeeSaw is no longer available.”

Former owner Arqiva tells paidContent: “Having completed the sale of SeeSaw in July, Arqiva is very disappointed by the failure of the new investors to provide their committed funding. Without that funding, the service had to close.”

It is thought a buy-out investor may have reconsidered its spend after hearing of Netflix’s UK expansion plans and after noting growing frostiness toward Hulu-style aggregator services.

SeeSaw’s remaining skeleton staff are thought to be without jobs. Questions over the missing money may now be considered by lawyers.

Bebo buyer Criterion Capital Partners led a buy-out by a consortium of 75 percent of unprofitable SeeSaw from Arqiva this summer, intending to invest in new content and to introduce the service to Hollywood content owners. But investment promised by one of the consortium investors, Weston Capital Management, as part of the deal to capitalise the site, which would also have triggered further investment, never materialised.

That prompted Channel 4 and Channel Five shows to be removed from the site in September along with the resignation of platform controller John Keeling, commercial director Matt Rennie and product director Richard Dines amid wider restructuring.

SeeSaw’s ownership transferred to SeeSaw Entertainment Holdings at the time of the deal, but both Arqiva’s retention of a 25 percent equity stake and the appointment of former BBC One controller Michael Jackson as chairman were conditional on Weston’s cash arriving.

Criterion is a turnaround specialist that marshals groups of investors along with it. Even if Weston’s money reached it, Criterion was likely to have wanted to cut costs by renegotiating SeeSaw’s broadcaster deals.

SeeSaw’s roots had been in Project Kangaroo, a joint venture commercial VOD aggregator started by BBC Worldwide, ITV (LSE: ITV) and Channel 4 which sucked millions of their investment before being prohibited from launching on anti-trust grounds by the UK’s Competition Commission.

The video technology the JV commissioned from Ioko (now owned by KIT Digital) was shopped around and bought by Arqiva, which had no experience in online TV but ambitions of finally realising Kangaroo’s promise of being a Hulu-like UK TV aggregator.

With the collapse of Kangaroo, however, the broadcasters themselves have been happier operating their own-brand catch-up services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand Five.