Channel 4’s online catch-up service has, until now, played second fiddle to the BBC iPlayer. But no longer. Channel 4 is evolving the service, dropping the application and moving all content to the Web instead. It’s also adding an archive of older content, all available to view completely free of charge.
Project Kangaroo Curtailed
The BBC iPlayer has been such a phenomenal success that it’s kind-of put the other British broadcasters’ efforts to provide viewers with online catch-up services in the shade. ITV and Channel 4 have somewhat struggled to find the same level of audience for their on-demand services.
This is part of the reason that all three broadcasters were working together on Project Kangaroo, the ill-fated attempt to provide U.K. viewers with a one-stop shop for content from all three of rival broadcasters. Unfortunately, Kangaroo was killed off at birth by an overzealous Competition Commission following complaints from BSkyB.
Channel 4 Looks Fourward
It seems that following that decision, Channel 4 has decided instead to focus on making 4oD a better service. The independent broadcaster is doing this by first of all doing away with the need for an application to be downloaded and used, and opening up an extensive archive of back cataloged Channel 4 shows.
All Channel 4 shows will now be available to watch for 30 days after broadcast on channel4.com. There’s no need to download anything as the selected show streams directly on the site. This means 4oD is now available to Mac and Linux users as well as Windows users.
Huge Online Archive
From the end of June, Channel 4 has promised the full archive of past shows will also appear on the site for viewing. The back catalog of content is expected to include around 10,000 shows totaling around 4,000 hours of television. The BBC iPlayer, by contrast, only has programs available while that series is still airing, then the whole lot disappear from the service.
Full series of popular shows such as Father Ted and Shameless will now be available online for free, which could potentially harm DVD sales, with box sets of classic shows very popular. This could be offset by the use of pre-roll advertising appearing before each show stream on channel4.com.
Ball In ITV and BBC’s Court
ITV isn’t going to be copying 4oD with its ITV Player service. It pondered the idea in the aftermath of the Kangaroo collapse but decided instead to work out a way of making revenue from older shows such as Poirot and Inspector Morse.
Whether the BBC has plans to do something similar isn’t clear but I can imagine the prospect of every episode of Doctor Who being made available on the iPlayer making some people’s year. The lack of advertising opportunity for the BBC may mean this is one area Channel 4 has to itself.
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