See. Saw. Didn’t bother again. 

27 May 2011

The news emerged today that video on demand service SeeSaw is to close.

There are, perhaps, two responses to this.

One is to shrug, muttering “See Who?”

The second is to respond with “SeeSaw was still going?”

If you’re firmly in the first camp, SeeSaw was a video on demand service offering TV programmes from, amongst others, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Some was available for free; others paid for. And all viewable by your computer.

It was created out of the assets of the defunct Project Kangeroo, bought by transmission company Arqiva in what was presumably an attempt to get itself into dealing direct with viewers rather than broadcasters.

SeeSaw launched with much fanfare and then, well seemed to disappear without a trace. Was it ever marketed? Can’t say I saw anything myself.

For me, SeeSaw always had one big problem. You had to view content on your PC. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a nice big TV with decent sound. Plugging the PC into the TV is a pain in the backside. If you’d put SeeSaw on my TV set, well then that may have been a different proposition.

Many people have noted that Arqiva is also part of the YouView consortium, and that SeeSaw would have really come alive when YouView launches. But it’s been unlikely for some time that YouView would become a defacto standard – at least not for many years in the market. Digital TV launched in 1997 and it took years before it became the default viewing method for most people. YouView will similarly take a long time before it’s in peoples homes – if it ever launches.

In the meantime, manufacturers are releasing TVs and set top boxes with internet connections all the time. The world wasn’t waiting.

What SeeSaw really needed was not YouView. What it needed was to be on TV sets, and it needed to be on them yesterday. It’s all possible. BBC iPlayer is available on a host of game consoles and connected TV sets, and Lovefilm allow films to be streamed online on a similar range of devices. For those two services on demand television is at the press of a button.

Meanwhile SeeSaw was sat quietly as a website, and slowly but surely fading into obscurity. It was set up with a view to being the UK’s answer to Hulu. It even had some good content. But without the easy distribution at the touch of a button, SeeSaw was always doomed to fail.

At this point I should note a disclaimer: (until 10 June anyway,) I work as a product manager for the Freeview, Freesat and BT Vision versions of BBC iPlayer

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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