SeeSaw - UK Version of Hulu is Closing Down

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Arqiva, the broadcast transmissions group, appealed for a partner for SeeSaw earlier this year to help carry the cost of the service, but  recently revealed that it was unsuccessful and SeeSaw will be shut or sold by Arqiva's financial year-end on 30 June.Arqiva created SeeSaw out of an online video-on-demand venture called Project Kangaroo (pre Project Canvas/Youview), which involved the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 and subsequently was trashed due to regulatory issues.

Anthony Rose, former CTO of Youview and founder of tBone project (in stealth mode) had some choice words in an interview with this morning:

SeeSaw was one of a number of attempts that Arqiva made, and no doubt continues to try to make, to set itself up for a future after 2026 when DTT spectrum is up for grabs again – i.e. its current business effectively gets turned off, or it has to bid for its own business again.

SeeSaw was attempt #1, namely to capitalise on the switch to VOD. But it’s very difficult to attract audiences to a new site, and a toxic blend of terrible rights (for example, they can’t compete with 4OD on SEO, as I understand it), user proposition that didn’t go where the audience is, non-sexy content proposition, and more, lead to (my joke) more people going to the bathrooms at Broadcast Centre each day than to the SeeSaw web site.

Attempt #2 was their investment in YouView. But that never made sense to me as being strategically aligned with re-inventing DTT in some new way that would capitalise on Arqiva’s current ownership of that space. Okay, so their goal was – in part – to become a new broadcaster in the VOD age, turning their SeeSaw portal on YouView boxes into a next-gen ‘channel’ aggregation play.

That was a stretch plan, but now that they’ve exited SeeSaw I’m not sure what’s left for them in YouView, and with that investment costing them (estimate) £10-£20M, an astute new CEO would be looking at that seriously.

If Arqiva exit YouView then it would take the BBC’s cost input above the 20% overrun window allowed by the BBC Trust, which means the BBC would then need to exit, and then YouView would be dead. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

An Arqiva spokesman told the press:

"SeeSaw was never a core business, it was more of a toe in the water. The industry has changed since we bought it, becoming more dynamic and competitive."

And here's the news right from the horse's mouth:

We're sad to announce that next month will be the end of the road for SeeSaw. Launched in February last year, SeeSaw has become a great place to watch TV for millions of UK viewers. However, as part of an ongoing strategic review of its business activities Arqiva, our parent company, is no longer able to support the service.

As it will soon be ‘goodbye’ from SeeSaw, we’d like to take this opportunity to say a big ‘thanks’ for all your support, custom and loyalty over the last 16 months. We’re a small team but we hope we’ve made a big difference and that you’ve had fun watching TV with us.

If you have any further questions, please check out the Frequently Asked Questions in our Help section. Alternatively, you can contact our Customer Support team.

Ryan Lawler at Gigom made some interesting points:

Unlike Hulu in the U.S., SeeSaw struggled to compete with online services launched by its own content partners. As Robert Andrews at paidContent:UK notes, those partners were more focused on their own brand initiatives than in helping SeeSaw succeed. The site also struggled to differentiate itself from online video behemoth YouTube, which had much of the same content licenses.



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