New online TV service SeeSaw launched today with a mission to bring high quality content and ease-of-use to the video on-demand space where previous high profile attempts such as Joost have largely failed.
The service was built by SeeSaw, a subsidiary of broadcast solutions provider Arqiva, from technology it acquired from Project Kangaroo - a failed online TV service which was backed by major UK broadcasters but ultimately blocked by regulators.
In aiming to be a "one-stop shop" for internet TV, the UK-only service is initially offering 3,000 hours of free content, having signed deals with BBC Worldwide, Channel 4 and Five, although ITV has currently been reluctant to get involved.
Chief executive Pierre-Jean Sebert told attendees at the launch event at a swish Soho hotel that the service would be funded by a mixed business model based on advertising and paid services.
On the ads side, Sebert claimed to have 17 advertisers already on board, with unskippable breaks before and during each show but mercifully no display advertising at all on the site.
The 3,000 free hours of catch-up and archive shows will be augmented in a couple of months with a paid service offering a further 2,000 hours of programming, with expected premium US and BBC content. The payment model will be based on a streaming only service, no downloads, and include pay-per-view and subscription options, the exact details of which have yet to be decided.
Despite the success of the BBC's iPlayer service - which SeeSaw admits it will be hoping to tap - the firm is nonetheless taking a big gamble, which may have accounted for its reluctance to share with the audience exactly how much had been invested in the project so far.
A lot will no doubt hinge on the prices users will ultimately be charged to watch streaming content, and how desirable that content is, but the firm seemed pretty confident both of these issues would not be a problem.
"We've got more than enough good stuff and that will double in the next six months," explained platform controller John Keeling.
"2010 will see big changes in user behaviour with the advent of internet connected TVs, set top boxes and so on. The market is moving at remarkable speed and it's absolutely the best time to be launching this service."
To be honest they seem to have cracked the usability bit so far. At present the home page displays a carousel of programmes selected by the SeeSaw editing team, and below them "What's New" section and an editorially chosen programme theme section, such as "Double Acts".
User can also navigate via a drop down tab by genre - sport, comedy etc - or TV channel. The proof of the pudding though will come with the introduction of paid content to the service.
Question marks were also raised by some journalists at the launch about whether the ad model chosen by SeeSaw will encourage enough advertisers to the site to make it a viable business proposition. We shall see.
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