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Arqiva to stick to its broadcaster knitting and invite partners to help SeeSaw

Now that we see UK broadcast infrastructure specialist Arqiva, actually operating Seesaw, the project that was born as Kangaroo within the BBC, a kind

By PETER WHITE

Published: 20 January, 2011

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Now that we see UK broadcast infrastructure specialist Arqiva, actually operating Seesaw, the project that was born as Kangaroo within the BBC, a kind of online VoD service for TV programming, we see why it is a bit of a problem.

It’s almost impossible to distinguish it from iPlayer and all the other online Player services from other broadcasters, except in one respect. Any BBC TV program that is on iPlayer, can get itself a plug on linear TV without paying for it, simply by saying “Now available on BBC iPlayer from our web site,” and Arqiva’s Seesaw can’t do that and instead has to pay for any and all of its advertising.

Which is perhaps why suddenly, out of nowhere Arqiva says that it is seeking an investment partner for SeeSaw. This, sadly, is just where most other initiatives of the BCC would end up, bereft of a forward strategy and ideas, unless they remain driven by the $5 billion subsidy which pays for the BBC, out of its public license fee.

Arqiva only paid £8 million to buy the operation from the BBC, once it was forced to put it up for sale, after it was clear that it might skew the online content market. But now it’s only hope, as far as Faultline can see, is for it to buy a place at the table of another BBC invention, Project Canvas (now renamed YouView). This is perhaps the only way that it can reliably reach millions of buyers of YouView set tops, once that system is up and running (sadly more delays were forecast this week).

Given that Channel Five baulked at paying the (unspecified but large) price of admission to YouView and put itself on the market, and only confirmed its involvement after the company’s sale for £103 million to a private publisher, the ticket might be quite expensive and beyond Arqiva’s current means.

That’s what we are guessing anyway, and although SeeSaw has rights to some prime UK TV assets, the price may well be too high to see an investor emerge, and the service could fade. On the other hand it probably provides a way into YouView for any content major, perhaps a US company such as one of Hulu’s owners might find that interesting, though if it has the entry price to YouView why wouldn’t such an organization go direct.

The call for investment came after Arqiva, which runs much of the UK TV broadcast infrastructure such as transmitters and huge antennas, carried out a financial review of its assets. We suspect that Arqiva may end up selling the service off.

“We’ve been looking at SeeSaw as part of a wider strategic review and, following the success in launching a pioneering new service to both consumers and advertisers, we now believe the service needs further investment to reach its full potential. SeeSaw is backed by unique technology and will be a major part of the connected TV revolution, but we need to enable a step-change in the development of the service in what is a very fast moving environment”, said Nick Thompson, Managing Director of Arqiva’s Broadcast & Media business unit.

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