Video-on-demand service SeeSaw has just launched with more than 3,000 hours of content, including programmes first broadcast in the past seven days such as Home and Away, Neighbours, Hollyoaks and Skins.
SeeSaw has secured output deals for seven-day catchup programming with Channel 4 and Channel Five. The VoD service will also have archive programming from the two broadcasters, BBC Worldwide and independent producers.
The service does not have an output deal with ITV, which has been more reluctant to strike third-party content deals. However, some archive ITV programming is being offered by SeeSaw through its deals with independent producers, including the dramas Kingdom, Doc Martin and Footballers' Wives.
Other archive shows available on the SeeSaw website include Doctor Who, Red Riding, Green Wing, Waterloo Road, Man Stroke Woman, The Apprentice, Eurotrash and What Not to Wear.
Viewers can watch TV shows on SeeSaw for free. SeeSaw is promising no display advertising and few ads within programmes, with commercials focused on the pre- and mid-roll slots.
The company said today it expects to add a further 2,000 hours of content by the end of June, when it plans to start charging for some programming, likely to be mostly US shows.
SeeSaw said visitors to its home page will be only two clicks away from watching a show and other features of the site include a parental lock.
John Keeling, the SeeSaw platform controller, said: "What you see today is the tip of the iceberg. Our thirst for great content will further enhance the appeal of SeeSaw to British audiences in the months ahead, ensuring viewers will come back again and again."
Pierre-Jean Sebert, the service's chief executive, added: "We have listened carefully to our beta testers and, over the coming months, will be implementing many of their suggestions and adding a raft of high quality British and international content."
Today's launch follows a period of beta testing, with an invite-only trial of its website for about 10,000 users that has been running since late January.
The service has been built by SeeSaw owner Arqiva, the broadcast transmission company, from the assets of ITV, Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide's defunct Project Kangaroo video-on-demand venture.
SeeSaw is one of a number of competing VoD services seeking to become the leading player in the nascent UK online TV market.
Google-owned YouTube has begun offering full-length TV shows and has similar output deals to SeeSaw with Channel 4 and Five to offer a seven-day catchup service, as well as archive programming from broadcasters including the BBC. Microsoft's MSN Video Player UK has been in a beta pilot phase since August last year.
Hulu, the US VoD service backed by NBU Universal, Disney and News Corporation, has been talking about launching in the UK for more than a year and is understood to have been talked to ITV about taking a stake in the business in return for an exclusive content deal.
However, earlier this week the Daily Telegraph reported that Hulu's talks with ITV were on hold, while the latter's new chairman Archie Norman conducts a review of the business.
As a completely new brand to the burgeoning UK video-on-demand market, SeeSaw is backing its launch with a £5m ad campaign that will include a massive TV spend.
SeeSaw has chosen Fallon, the ad agency behind hugely popular ad campaigns including "Gorilla" for Cadbury and "Balls" and "Paint" for Sony, to make the brand a household name.
The company, which aims to be a "one-stop shop" aggregator for online TV programming, is already looking ahead to getting the service distributed on other platforms beyond the PC.
It is understood that discussions about launching on internet-enabled television and with Project Canvas, the joint venture from partners including the BBC and ITV that aims to bring video on demand to Freeview and Freesat digital TV homes.
Source article: Guardian