Blog Post

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.

6 Responses to “VOD In Slow-Mo: SeeSaw’s Launch Hazy, ITV Protects Its ‘Crown Jewels’”

  1. Peter Bale

    Fair enough on the "stretch" but it is there, just waiting to turn on, specially with Windows 7. YouTube news is fascinating but as C4 says, it's non-exclusive. There has to be something in first-mover advantage for quality ad-funded content — hardly words usually associated with You Tube. No broadcaster wants to be held over a barrel more than they already are with YT. They want options and that means Microsoft on various platforms from MSN to Xbox (Sky), Windows Media Center, Mediaroom (BT Vision) plus You Tube and maybe Hulu, Canvas and Arqiva. Come on in, the water is fine.

  2. Industry PLayer

    Hi Peter

    80% is a stretch claim, that has to be delivered first in terms of user behjaviour, which means taking you past Youtube – tough call, I'm sure you agree.

    I do applaud what MSN have done, and the Highfield/Bale combo certainly opening doors and getting things done. But I do have my doubts about the scale that you can deliver.

    Interesting C4/Youtube news today – Errol Baran of C4 said in a recent conference that there "wasn't much money right now" in online video sales for them – so good luck with selling all that Youtube inventory. But who can catch Youtube?

  3. Peter Bale

    Always puzzles me when people see it as a criticism that MSN gets a lot of traffic from Messenger and Hotmail. Kind of like saying ITV gets users because people have TV. It's a network effect of which we are proud not bashful. It also works. Plus direct traffic and user loyalty — using the site as a destination not just a default — is rising sharply. Also, if you think more of a video play that reaches beyond MSN into Windows Media Center — on 80 per cent of PCs in the country then that is a pretty handy piece of "dark fiber" waiting to be lit up by great content. No? Even Industry Player may see that.

  4. Industry Player

    One million streams over what, two months since launch?

    500k streams per month
    Assume 100% sold out at £40cpm page yield tops
    Gives £20k per month gross
    Minus agency leaves £17k
    Rev share with video provider BBC WW £half = £8.5K
    So IF ads are sold out (they haven't been) and IF BBCWW own all the videos shown then they might make £8-£9k a month given MSN can get that sort of ad yield. (Doubtful)

    !iggest problem for MSN is making that 1 million become 10 million. You could maybe get there if bbc shard the iplayer, but then you can't put ads in front of it.
    ITV are hung up on Hulu / Youtube, and won't make a decision until 2010, and won't share ad sales anyway.

    The only way to be a major player in this market is to have compelling content on the table to barter with, and to use it to attract other tv content players. Youtube are in the mix because with their scale, you HAVE to talk to them.

    Best of luck MSN, Blinkbox et al – but you don't have the audience scale already interacting with video or the content to trade with to come out top.

    Hulu will flop in UK – zero audience, no content stakeholders, bbc won't share with them, Yoututbe won't let what happened in the US occur anywhere else.

    Youtube – with their pockets, they could offer everyone substantial MG's to be exclusive distributor. Waiting for that to happen… When they have won, they can then move to ad share, especially as they now allow partners who have long form content to control the ad sales.

  5. Michael Greyed

    But people won't go to MSN for video… Because it's MSN. The only partners worth working with in the UK are Youtube and Canvas. Everyone else will be a drop in the ocean. Kudos to MSN, but as a brand, most of its traffic is email and messenger derived.

  6. Peter Bale

    Worth noting that there is one "wannabe" actually out, publishing quality TV video online in a free, ad-funded model. The MSN Video Player beta. More than a million streams so far, fully funded by advertising. There are some proof points or likely proof points there. We'd love the ITV content by the way. http://www.msn.co.uk/videoplayer
    I do acknowledge, of course, that it is a beta.