Kangaroo, a British rival to the U.S. Hulu, is facing evolution or death after the Competition Commission refused to accept it in its current form.
Back in November 2007, the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, four broadcasters in the UK, announced plans for a joint online video on demand venture. Kangaroo was meant to be an online version of Freeview offering over 10,000 of original programming.
The BBC already has the hugely popular iPlayer, ITV has the newly rename ITV Player, and Channel 4 has 4oD. Kangaroo would see all three services combined under one umbrella, while all would still also operate independently.
90% of the programming will be free, paid for by advertising. This would see the license fee-funded BBC making money as well as the commercial companies involved.
Kangaroo was first meant to launch sometime in 2008, but July saw those plans take a battering after rival UK broadcasters BSkyB and Virgin Media complained about the plans to the OFT (Office of Fair Trading).
The complaints accused the joint venture of being anti-competitive, and the OFT referred the case to the CC (Competition Commission). Kangaroo has since faced 24 weeks of scrutiny and the CC has now given its preliminary verdict (pdf link)
The CC claims that the joint venture “will restrict competition” in the UK’s emerging video-on-demand sector. Basically backing the claims of BSkyB and Virgin Media.
The problem seems to be that the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 are the big players in program production in the UK, so Kangaroo’s mere existence would make it hard for any rival broadcaster/s to offer anywhere near as big or attractive a package.
The CC offers some remedies to this issue, including offering other broadcasters access to Kangaroo’s extensive content, or limiting users ability to watch content on catch-up.
Project Kangaroo is still confident of launching next year, but I personally can’t see it happening. The restrictions seem to severe, and the compromises too great to really make it worthwhile. In the end, the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 may as well stay separate and offer their own programming to viewers.
As a British resident bitter at not being able to watch any content on Hulu and those other forward-thinking VoD services in the U.S., I was hoping Kangaroo would offer an alternative, but it seems not.
Maybe one day, Kangaroo will be rethought and repositioned, but for now it seems that overzealous watchdogs, forming a Kangaroo court of sorts, have put back the video-on-demand industry by a few years.
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