Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Seesaw internet TV service launches in UK

Sir Alan Sugar, The Apprentice
The Apprentice is one of the shows that will be available on Seesaw.

Seesaw's online TV service has launched in full for British internet users after less than a month of beta testing on 20,000 users.

The service offers viewers the chance to catch up for free on 3,000 hours of archive and recent programmes from the BBC, Channel 4 and Five.

Seesaw is funded by advertising - viewers see unskippable 60-second ad breaks before and during each show.

Seventeen brands including Ikea, Diageo and Kraft have already signed up.

Channel 4 and Five are selling space around their own programmes, with an agency booking advertising content around shows from the BBC and other independent production companies.

Seesaw was born from technology bought by Arqiva from the aborted Project Kangaroo, an internet TV service supported by several UK broadcasters that was blocked by the Competition Commission.

Seesaw's platform controller, John Keeling, told BBC News that the site would roll out a premium service in the next few months with 2000 additional hours of programmes.

Customers of the new service will make undisclosed micropayments to view or "rent" major shows.

The company is still in negotiation with several US studios for their content, although the website will not be available overseas.

There are plans to "experiment" offering 90 minute TV movies but SeeSaw will not stream cinema release films.

Viewers choosing to rent a programme will have 48 hours to stream it without ads or return to it to watch again, explained Mr Keeling.

The BBC iPlayer offers viewers the chance to download and own programmes for 30 days but Seesaw's user testing indicated that its customers would rather stream video, he added.

Streaming site

He denied that Seesaw was following in the footsteps of online music service Spotify.

"I can see the comparison but Spotify is more of a free and subscription hybrid - we're looking at free and transactional pay-per-view hybrid."

Chief Executive Pierre-Jean Sebart said that a subscription package was something SeeSaw was "investigating".

While the service will initially be purely a streaming outlet, there are plans to add social networking elements to the Seesaw site, said head of product and technology Richard Dines, who previously worked on Project Kangaroo.

Both Mr Dines and Mr Keeling were reluctant to make comparisons between the two initiatives.

"It's a different story," said Mr Keeling. "Lessons were learned by the shareholders of Kangaroo. We have a different model - we don't have broadcasters as shareholders."

However he credited the catch-up services developed individually by the major broadcasters - such as 4OD, the BBC iPlayer and Demand Five - for opening up a market for internet TV.

You need a big player to change the way people watch television
John Keeling, Seesaw

"You need a big player to change the way people watch television," he said.

But with broadcasters already pointing viewers to their own services, the challenge for Seesaw and similar companies such as Blinkbox is to divert enough users away, said Chris Curtis, news editor at industry publication Broadcast.

"The difficulty for all these guys is getting enough viewers to site to view the content to make the advertising model stack up," he said.

"It's quite hard to get people to pay for content online. They might be prepared to make micropayments for the really big American shows but people generally associate conventional, standard TV with being free at point of viewing."

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