Commentary: Will SeeSaw Succeed Where Others Have Failed?

As SeeSaw beds down after 3 years in the making, the battle for supremacy in VoD is really hotting up as the dominant players jockey for position.  

These are exciting times for advertisers waiting with their fiercely negotiated budgets and brands looking to get a bigger return for their money. These are equally exciting times for TV companies considering new monetisation and pay models in this new world.

As the overall programme and project management company for Kangaroo, Capablue held pivotal roles across the product, platform, and business implementation. We spent considerable time working with the broadcasters to define Kangaroo's "product" models. This included all the detailed content packaging, pricing, and offer options and models. Defining and agreeing on pricing, price points, and packaging across the different broadcasters (and their producers) was a major challenge for the project. This includes the often overlooked back-end challenges of revenue share and pay management

What have we learned about this medium, and how will SeeSaw get the balance right between commerce and user experience to satisfy both their business and viewing customers?

As SeeSaw will not be able to re-edit or re-purpose the core content, they will be limited to packaging up existing "free TV" assets for commercial consumption. How? Well, they will need some very clever packaging and pricing. They will need to bundle content across broadcasters with additional value-add services (social engagement, editorial, recommendations, etc.) while allowing the revenue and payment to be split between the content owners in a way that is equitable to all the stakeholders. We know from previous investigations how challenging this is—the devil really is in the detail and in the complex and tricky engagement with content owners.

Targeting the summer for paid-for services is going to be a tough challenge for SeeSaw. Although lots of thinking on paid-for services has already been done through 4oD's experiment with pay services and more recently on the Kangaroo phase of SeeSaw, there are still so many unanswered questions.

Who "owns" pricing, SeeSaw or the content owners? What are the price points (assume more like 5p-10p, rather than the 99p of 4oD)? How do you keep pricing consistent across broadcasters? How do you make the payment process simple to users to prevent it being a barrier? How do you package up content across broadcasters and re-distribute the earnings fairly? It will be a minefield for SeeSaw to get the pricing and packaging model right.

In the UK it is likely that TV VoD content will be available in many locations—including Virgin, You Tube, and SeeSaw—as well as the broadcasters' own sites. SeeSaw will need to differentiate their products and services, particularly over broadcasters' own sites, in ways other than through uniqueness of the content proposition. Online and social tools such as blogs, recommendations, and forums are useful but they need to be used intelligently and only in a way that supports the core content proposition. From what we have seen recently, SeeSaw still have much work ahead to really make the service stand out in this area. SeeSaw has launched with a really simple user experience (lacking obvious discovery functionality and basic social media tools). However, introduction of pricing, packaging, payment workflows, user account management, registration, personalised views, and all the other features required for commerce will turn SeeSaw in to a much more complex beast for users to get to grips with.

A user-centric view will be key, and lessons already learned by online retailers and ecommerce experts should be applied to smooth the way for users to make payments. The SeeSaw team will have to become ecommerce experts, not just TV experts, to make this work.

It is good to see SeeSaw planning to bring in payments early in its evolution. It looks like it may be embarking on the right journey but it is a path fraught with challenges and dangers, and there will be many people waiting to say "Do we never learn?"

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