Wednesday, February 04, 2009

So Is The UK Going Digital Selectively?

The anti BBC people will be no doubt rubbing their hands at the news that the Kangaroo joint project between BBC, ITV and Channel 4 is to be blocked by the Competition Commission. The service would have established an on demand video service to sell current shows from C4 and ITV and archived BBC shows. The reason given was that the posed service posed "too much of a threat to competition".

One week after the government had tabled a digital Britain plan another arm of the establishment has gone the other way and the losers will be the public. The logic was that the project would inhibit other on demand services developing a service. The reality is that the services are all under considerable pressure with ITV haemorrhaging ad revenues, Channel 4 and 5 close to a survival marriage and the knives poised as always over the BBC.

These companies may commission productions but today the majority of content is independent and it’s the delivery where the consolidation makes most sense. In a global market with strong international dominant branded players a UK consolidation makes more sense than a fragmented one that is potentially unable to compete on the global stage.

The BBC's iPlayer followed the lead of Channel 4and has proved a high success story and proof of the demand for a free service and ITV now also offers a similar service. Kangaroo would have enabled the BBC to offer its huge archive of material and importantly build a global brand enabling those outside the UK to use the service on a pay to view basis. It could have removed the current 7 day window. This could have been rolled out country by country on the back of As it is the BBC may have to live within their branded section of iTunes, further building Apple’s brand rather than a UK one.

The combined entity would have consolidated investment, user experience and enabled money to be funnelled into what really matters content and rights.

At a time when the UK government cries global with one breath it’s a shame their narrow minds stifle global opportunities with the other.

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