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@ Mipcom: Kangaroo Plans To Offer US Shows, Movies; Closed Beta Due For Christmas

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imageYou’re reading it here first (maybe)… Project Kangaroo will offer US TV shows and movies, despite being formed by three UK broadcasters. CEO Ashley Highfield, in a panel, revealed he has been in “back-to-back meetings with US studios” here in Cannes this week: “We hope to acquire US TV and make it a compelling movie offering as well, and we’ll also be adding from the UK through Five and indies as well.”

So Kangaroo’s content library is growing significantly beyond founders BBC Worldwide, ITV (LSE: ITV) and C4, even before it’s allowed to launch, with US imports and movies an expansion from the commonly held view of the project. The Competition Commission’s antitrust probe is not due to report until February 6 (and these new deals Kangaroo is seeking will look mightily embarrassing if the commission kneecaps the service) but “we’d be hoping to launch shortly thereafter”.

Forbidden to launch for now, what exactly is occupying Kangaroo’s paws lately; what’s to work on until February? Highfield jokingly told me: “I’ve brought my golf handicap down to eight.” In seriousness, he’s been “making the case”, working with the regulator: “I spent the day with the Competition Commission yesterday, going through the proposal.” Despite the holding pattern, “with the Competition Commission’s blessing we, are building the offering … and we expect to have a closed beta around Christmas time … they don’t want the regulatory procedure to hold up innovation.”

Hghfield even said he hoped Kangaroo will go international in destinations like Scandinavia and partner with others in such territories to get the service on to TV sets.

If and when it does launch, Kangaroo will shake its long tail; Highfield said just two percent of the BBC’s 1.3 million-hour archive is currently exploited, the rest gathering dust on shelves. Some 7,500 of 10,000 hours of shows free and ad-funded. “Over the top of that, we will layer lot of editorial – we don’t see ourselves as an iTunes”; instead, broadcasters will display show packages eg. for a girl’s night in, sci-fi fans or 70s cop drama.

Highfield repeated that there will be on-ramps from the public iPlayer, Channel4.com and ITV.com to commercial Kangaroo shows: “We envisage that a lot of traffic will come through the door from catchup television, then we will take them on a journey through the back catalogue and paid content.” He acknowledged: “It’s a pretty untested model, but the economics do work; if we can bring enough people to a one-stop shop site, then it becomes economically viable – we win and the rightsholders win.”