BBC and ITV Revive Paid VOD Streaming Plans

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The BBC and ITV are reviving plans to stream archive shows for a subscription and extend the commercial life of content.

A previous attempt in 2009, codenamed Kangaroo, was nixed by UK regulators.

A report in The Guardian, substantiated by "multiple sources," speculates that the broadcasters, along with NBCUniversal, are exploring a Netflix-style subscription service.

Admittedly in its early stages, the project is thought to focus on catalogue shows rather than first-runs, although some original commissions may be included.

The BBC is under pressure to make up to £800 million ($1.14 billion) in annual savings, and will be looking at any potential revenue to fill the hole.

ITV has been on a mission to reset the commercial broadcaster's dependence on ad revenues since chief executive Adam Crozier joined in 2010.

As of last month, non-advertising sales account for 49 per cent of ITV’s total revenues of £3.38 billion ($4.8 billion), up from around 30 per cent in 2010. Crozier said last month that ITV was looking to "explore new models for content creation and distribution, through a mix of pay channels and online."

While both networks run free catch-up services, programming is only available in a 30-day window after TV transmission.

BBC Store, launched in November, is a download to own service designed as a replacement for declining sales of BBC Worldwide physical disc sales. It has 7000 hours of shows available.

Both broadcasters, though, licence content to Netflix (ITV does this via ITV Studios) and will be eyeing the proven market in longtail views on the U.S. rival—a market which they had hoped to capture with the aborted Kangaroo.

This venture, which was also backed by Channel 4, intended to provided a single broadband VOD service in the UK and was blocked by the over zealous Competition Commission on the grounds that it would be a threat to the nascent video on demand market.

This opened the door wide to Netflix, which subsequently capitalised on the vacancy by launching in 2012. It now counts more than 5 million UK subscribers.

For this reason, and the increasing impact of other streamers like Amazon Prime, if the BBC and ITV proceed with a new paid VOD offer it is unlikely to run into the same competition issues. Nor would the new service include each broadcaster’s catch-up service, which was another concern of the regulator.

Assets from Kangaroo were acquired by Arqiva which proceded to launch ad-funded VOD service SeeSaw in February 2010 offering content from BBC Worldwide, Channel 4, Channel Five, and several production companies. This was shut down in October 2011 after failing to gain traction.

In the interim, the BBC and ITV retrained efforts on project Canvas which eventually surfaced as internet connected TV platform YouView.

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