BBC, ITV, Ch4 see Project Kangaroo launch delay

Project Kangaroo, the TV video-on-demand joint venture to be jointly-owned by UK broadcasters BBC, ITV and Channel 4, has seen its launch delayed while the UK Competition Commission extends the duration of its probe into the service.

The jointly-owned service was originally expected to launch in the fourth quarter, but launch has now been delayed.

The Competition Commission (CC) said it is “extending the timetable for the inquiry whilst it awaits important information on details of the joint venture, which are still being negotiated by the parties. Whilst the CC will continue with the inquiry, the information required is central to assessing the CC’s statutory questions, including the competitive effects of the joint venture.”

The regulator added, “The parties have suggested that the information should be available by early September. This would result in our provisional findings being published in early November and an extension to our statutory deadline of about a month to mid-January 2009, although, depending in part on the parties’ progress, we may be able to report sooner.”

Project Kangaroo is a Web-based service which will allow UK residents to view both recent and archived shows from the three broadcasters on-demand using broadband devices.

The commission stressed that announcement of the delay does not mean it has reached any conclusions on the inquiry.

When Commission announced it would make a public enquiry into the UK broadcaster’s joint plans, ITV’s executive chairman Michael Grade said, “While I understand that the Office of Fair Trading is carrying out its statutory obligations, there is a serious problem with a regulatory framework that seems unable to take the most important interest into account – that of British viewers.

The UK’s three biggest public service broadcasters together invest £2.5 billion per annum in original UK production, representing over 90 per cent of the total spend, as the recent Ofcom report highlighted. As digital distribution gathers pace, we want to make our content available for free to online users in the most accessible way through Kangaroo.

This venture has been delayed by a reference to the Competition Commission, 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.”

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