Project Kangaroo, the joint venture from the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 to bring online video to the masses, have been killed at birth by the Competition Commission. Hoping for a British answer to Hulu? It’s not going to happen.
Project Kangaroo was first announced way back in November, 2007. The joint venture between Britain’s three most popular broadcasters, the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, was envisioned as a one-stop online video destination that could rival YouTube or Hulu.
Project Kangaroo Details
The ‘Freeview online’ was going to have over 10,000 hours of programming all available as VoD (Video on Demand). The project would have taken the BBC iPlayer model and expanded it to include a wealth of programming from the Beeb’s broadcasting rivals.
Six months later and Kangaroo hit a snag when the Competition Commission became involved after complaints from rival broadcasters, BSkyB and Virgin Media, who were bitter at not having been invited to the party.
Evolution Or Death?
December, 2008 brought news that Kangaroo faced evolution or death, and even the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 seemed to accept that the former was highly likely. That has now proved to be the case, with the Competition Commission having finally delivered its verdict – Kangaroo is officially off the menu.
The CC’s final report on the matter has effectively banned Project Kangaroo from being developed any further. The reasoning is that Kangaroo would be “too much of a threat to competition in this developing market and has to be stopped.” Except there isn’t any competition and there now likely won’t be a market due to this poor decision.
Granted, the three broadcasters behind Kangaroo do control most of the programming in the UK, but surely that’s a positive reason for allowing them to become the market leaders in this field. Offering viewers the chance to watch current and archived programming from one Web destination using one refined video player could have put the UK in a very strong position as the leader in this field.
The thrust of the Competition Commission’s argument was that after Kangaroo had launched, there would be nothing stopping the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 from upping prices to both consumers and other broadcasters. But that’s ignoring market forces which suggest that people are only willing to pay a certain amount of money for these types of services. Kangaroo wouldn’t have been able to up the price for fear of scaring away viewers and content buyers.
What really makes no sense about this decision is the fact that all three broadcasters can still supply their content online individually. The BBC has the iPlayer; ITV has ITV.com; Channel 4 has 4oD. But they can’t work together because that all of a sudden means there’s a danger of a monopoly.
Interestingly, the Competition Commission hasn’t ruled out the three companies working together in the future on a similar project. The report only specifies Kangaroo as illegal, but were similar but slightly different plans drawn up between the broadcasters, that would be another case for another day.
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