Project Kangaroo has been dead for a while now, but the technology, infrastructure, and branding were all up for sale. Orange was interested but baulked at the price. Now, Arqiva, a broadcast operator with its fingers in lots of pies, has bought the lot and intends to use it in the coming months.
Kangaroo was a joint project between the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 which was intended to bring together content from the three main British broadcasters, as well as others, and deliver it online and on-demand to viewers.
Killed At Birth
Project Kangaroo was shaping up to be the U.K.’s answer to Hulu, a one-stop online video shop where a multitude of different broadcasters and content creators could offer their wares for free to the viewing public.
But, as is usually the case with something good, Kangaroo was crushed before it could be born, as the Competition Commission decided it was anti-competitive.
It was first announced in late 2007 when, fueled by the early success of the BBC iPlayer, the three companies decided teaming up would be a good solution to the problem of developing and maintaining an video-on-demand service for all.
By the middle of 2008, after complaints from rival broadcasters BSkyB and Virgin Media, Kangaroo was facing a grilling at the hands of the Competition Commission. A grilling which unfortunately never looked like going Kangaroo’s way.
Ultimately, after a series of judgments and negotiations, Project Kangaroo was killed off due to the CC’s argument that it was “too much of a threat to competition in this developing market and has to be stopped.”
Arqiva Tastes Blood
Arqiva has now bought the Kangaroo infrastructure, issuing a press release announcing as much earlier this week. Arqiva isn’t a very well-known company but it owns and operates the network for terrestrial TV and radio, as well as licenses for two of the six digital TV multiplexes. Meaning it’s already a big player.
The company has now bought Kangaroo lock, stock, and barrel, which means the hardware, software, and intellectual property rights will all go to arqiva on completion of the deal. Arqiva plans to use this infrastructure to make a foray into Web TV market, both with free content and pay-to-view content.
The company said:
“Arqiva plans to use the Project Kangaroo platform assets to launch a new video-on-demand service to UK consumers in the coming months,”
“The platform will aim to host top-end quality content from leading broadcasters and independent content providers to provide a broad range of user experiences to its audiences.”
I’m glad the time, effort, and money the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 expended on Project Kangaroo isn’t going to be completely wasted. Aquiva didn’t mention what it had paid for the technology but I suspect it was a fraction of the total costs, estimated to be around £12 million ($18 million).
If Aquiva does launch a video-on-demand service using the technology, which seems highly likely, then it will need content, and will probably get that content from some of the same companies effectively banned from forging ahead with Kangaroo in the first place.
What’s more, it’ll likely have to compete with Hulu itself, which is planning to expand its operations into Europe, starting in the U.K. later this year. So I suppose the Competition Commission at least did its job in allowing competition to rage in the online video arena.
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