UK Web TV Project Faces Competition Probe

02 July 2008

LONDON: Project Kangaroo, the much trumpeted video-on-demand joint venture from UK broadcasters BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4, looks likely to be delayed further following its referral to the Competition Commission.

The service, due to offer more than 10,000 hours of recently-aired and archive content via the web, has been the subject of scrutiny by Britain's Office of Fair Trading.

The latter says it has made the referral because of concerns that such a concentration of programme libraries could constitute unacceptable market power, particularly when it came to setting prices for syndicating content to wholesale customers.

In addition, the OFT noted that Kangaroo's market position could allow it to raise prices for VOD consumers and "limit the range of ways in which viewers can watch the parties' content on demand".

The Competition Commission's probe will take place over the next six months, making it unlikely the service will launch this year as planned.

The delay will dismay the project's supporters, who claim it will allow global giants such as Google to steal a march on UK broadcasters.

Declares ITV executive chairman Michael Grade: "This venture has been delayed ... at the very same time that non-UK companies like Google and Apple are free to build market-dominating positions online in the UK without so much as a regulatory murmur."

A position not dissimilar to that of BT back in the early 90s when a compliant UK government stifled the telco's planned VOD service to allow unimpeded passage to US-owned cable duopoly NTL and Telewest - these days known as Virgin Media.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff