UK Regulator Kills Kangaroo, Bows to Overseas Media Interests

05 February 2009

LONDON: Project Kangaroo, a proposed video on demand project funded jointly by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 - and misrepresented by Rupert Murdoch's UK voice The Times as "a rival to YouTube" – has been given the Kiss of Death by Britain's Competition Commission

The Times' deliberate mistake lays a false scent. Kangaroo presented no threat whatever to Google's YouTube video-sharing service.

It was, however, perilous in the extreme to NewsCorp's UK satellite services provider BSkyB, whose SkyPlayer VoD service would have taken a hammering from its marsupial rival.

As would the VoD interests of US-controlled cable services mammoth, Virgin Media.

According to Competition Commission chairman Peter Freeman, a lawyer-cum-bureaucrat by trade, Kangaroo "would be too much of a threat" in the developing market for video on demand, because the three broadcasters would have an incentive to restrict supply of their programmes elsewhere. 

Continued Freeman: "The Commission has confirmed its provisional finding that the joint venture is likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition in the supply of UK TV VOD content at the wholesale and retail levels."

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade declared his amazement at the verdict: "We believed that the Kangaroo joint venture, competing in a crowded online world against dominant global brands, was an attractive UK consumer proposition, free at the point of use."

It's unthinkable, of course, that either of the US media giants – let alone the politically influential Murdoch clan – would have lobbied  government ministers or political fixers to throttle Kangaroo before it emerged from its parental pouch.

Nonetheless an investigation into the investigation would be welcomed in many quarters.

Data sourced from The Times (UK); additional content by WARC staff