SeeSaw is the name of the online video service that was born out of the ashes of the fallen Project Kangaroo – purchased from the consortium of broadcast partners by the telecommunications infrastructure company Arqiva.
Arqiva was born out of a history in broadcast infrastructure running transmission faciltities as Crown Castle. Now they’ve moved into online transmission with the launch of SeeSaw, a service that will allow you to watch a raft of old and new television shows online.
The shows are displayed through a flash player, streamed and at the moment support by either advertising or pay per play.
SeeSaw wasn’t the first of its kind to launch in this space, beaten by offerings from both Google (YouTube) and Microsoft (MSN Video Player).
The YouTube offering has content deals with a number of content providers, most notable are Five and Channel 4 and for MSN their content deals are with BBC Worldwide and Channel 4.
SeeSaw has content deals in place with the BBC, Channel 4 and Demand Five as well as hints at a much wider range of content in the future.
Not to mention my favourite of all the online video services, BlinkBox, which has a huge range of content from the BBC, Channel 4 and American networks to view for free, pay per view or to keep forever for a fee.
And then there’s iTunes – a download you can put on your iPod, iPad (more on this in my next post) or iPhone and watch when you like.
This all sounds amazing, something I could easily spend hours using, catching up on shows I already own on DVD but can never be bothered to open – or shows I would like to watch but don’t want to spend money on the DVD.
Six different video players
But it isn’t that simple for me – because I live in the Channel Islands.
I’m not complaining about the fact that I live in the Channel Islands – I love it, I chose to live here and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else – but the perculiar political situation means some things work …. differently.
One of those things is content rights.
Yes we have the BBC in the Channel Islands, we have Channel 4, Sky and pretty much everything people in the mainland UK have – our television and radio is more or less the same.
However, when it comes to the internet things get a little bit more complicated.
For the iPlayer, 4OD (on the Channel 4 website) and Demand Five things are fine – we can access and watch shows on all of those services as if we were in the mainland.
But when those shows move across to YouTube, MSN or SeeSaw – things are a little different.
I recently got a beta invite to SeeSaw – very exciting, couldn’t wait and first impression were good – it’s usable, easy to navigate and seems to have a reasonable selection of content for a beta service.
But when I went to click play I got the same message I’ve become used to from Hulu, MSN and YouTube shows – they allow follow the ‘sorry this content isn’t available in your location’ structure.
My intitial reaction to this message, something I’ve not had confirmed despite several e-mails, is that it’s down to the fact that they’re using a GeoIP list that doesn’t include Channel Island IP addresses.
However, a little bit of research and an actual response from one of the companies involved (SeeSaw) suggests that in fact it is a rights issue.
This isn’t the first time I’ve come across ‘rights’ being used as a reason why a service isn’t available in the Channel Islands.
iTunes isn’t officially available here and an Apple spokesperson told me late last year that it was because they haven’t got rights agreements in place for the streaming of samples for the Channel Islands.
The e-mail from SeeSaw explained that: “Unfortunately, SeeSaw is not currently available in the Channel Islands (or the Isle of Man) as we don’t yet have the rights to show programmes there.”
However all is not lost as the next paragraph in that e-mail explained that they were in negotations with rights holders.
“The good news is that we are currently in negotiations to make our service available to you, so hopefully you’ll soon be able to watch your favourite programmes on SeeSaw.”
What I don’t understand is how I can easily watch the full range of 4OD shows on the Channel 4 website – with 4OD actively going out of their way to fix an issue that blocked access to CI users last year – but I can’t watch it on YouTube, MSN or SeeSaw.
Fortunately I work for a large UK corporation so my computer at work is behind a proxy that IS in the UK – so I got to try SeeSaw out, even if I didn’t have enough time to watch a full show.
My second impressions are that, although it is completely lacking in ANY social or sharing functionality it does have some nice features.
It is EXCEPTIONALLY easy to use and has a couple of nice touches like a fade to back on the background on the player page when focus moves away.
It has a lot of information on the programme you’re watching, the advertising isn’t OTT and it is very easy to find previous and future episodes of the same series.
So for a beta service with a limited user base and no external access (where sharing and social stuff wouldn’t be that useful anyway) I’d say it is pretty impressive.
As long as they work towards introducing social and sharing for launch in March I’d say this is a real contender for the television site of choice crown – especially as they’ve launched so far ahead of a UK release of Hulu.
But if they want to compete with Hulu when it launches - the social, sharing and ratings content will become increasingly important.