“We will look at making quite a significant archive available,” said Taylor. “When we launch the product we will actually just experiment. We think it will be a mixed economy of free content with advertising, some pay-per-view and maybe some subscription.”
The plan to roll out a full VOD service follows C4’s successful pay-per-view trial of Lost and Desperate Housewives. The trial, launched in May to coincide with season two of Lost, saw shows made available for 99p. Channel 4 has not released figures but, says Taylor, “take-up has been good”.
“We want to put more and more content online,” Taylor said, outlining the broadcaster’s plans to expand its VOD offering across platforms including mobiles, as well as TV and the net. “The functionality of the web means the service will potentially be richer and more broad than on the TV.”
Sony’s forthcoming PlayStation 3 console even gets a mention. “We’ve very much got our eye on devices that will make it easier to download content, such as the PS3.
“You won’t see that this year, but looking forward we want to converge PCs and portability.”
Asked about his response to illegal TV downloading from peer-to-peer services like BitTorrent, Taylor offered a carrot rather than a stick. “Our response is to try and make content legally available as quickly as possible. It’s all about: let’s make it available, and let’s move quickly, because BitTorrent is not going to go away.
“We work a lot with the music industry, and when you ask them how can we learn from what happened with you guys, they say: just make your content available as fast as possible.
“So let’s not think, oh my God, this is going to cannibalise the main channel. You’ve just got to say, let’s embrace it.
“We also need to make sure the quality’s really good – and safe. We’ll be able to offer some extra premium content, such as behind-the-scenes footage, that people can’t get from file-sharing services.
“But we’re all aware that [BitTorrent] is a significant hurdle for us, and we’re going to have to really look at that.”
Taylor said that he hoped to add imported content such as Lost and Hollywood movies to Channel 4’s live simulcast, launched in June. All the channel’s commissioned content such as Big Brother and Hollyoaks is now shown live online as well as on TV, though adverts are no longer included.
“The simulcast really is just an experiment to gauge what happens,” Taylor told vnunet.com. “We had all the UK stuff [to stream online], and we thought rather than wait until we’ve cleared everything with the US studios, let’s just get it live and see what happens.”
Taylor predicted that imported content would be added to the simulcast sooner rather than later. “You’ll see that we start to drop in the US content in time. We’re talking to [the US studios] about it.”
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