August 20, 2009 12:06 am

Blinkbox site to screen BBC shows online

Blinkbox, an online video site, has secured the rights to BBC shows, including Doctor Who, Planet Earth and Spooks, as the race to fill the void left by Project Kangaroo intensifies.

Project Kangaroo was the codename for a joint venture between BBC Worldwide, Channel 4 and ITV to bring catch-up and archive programmes to the web. The partnership was blocked in February by the Competition Commission for restricting competition in the UK’s nascent video-on-demand market.

In July, Arquiva, which runs most of the UK’s broadcasting infrastructure, acquired the technology behind Kangaroo and planned to launch its own version of the service.

Earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled its MSN Video Player, featuring shows from BBC and All3Media, an independent producer, including Peep Show and Shameless.

Hulu, a popular US video service that is partly owned by the broadcasters Fox, NBC and ABC, is also planning to come to the UK, although industry insiders suggest that it will launch later than September, as had been reported.

“There’s been a lot of hype around foreign companies coming to the UK to fill the void left by Kangaroo,” said Michael Comish, chief executive and co-founder of Blinkbox. “We are UK-based, UK-financed and UK-staffed.”

Mr Cornish said that BBC Worldwide was a good “anchor tenant” to attract other UK content. While Blinkbox had been pitching to the BBC for two years, progress accelerated after Kangaroo was blocked. “With Kangaroo, things were in limbo for a long time,” he said. “This market is going to break in the next six months. This is a real accelerator for us.”

Blinkbox, which served up 1.5m video streams to 750,000 unique visitors last month, already had 5,000 hours of programming available, much of it from US networks. The 75 BBC series will be available to buy or be advertising supported, depending on the show. Prices are expected to be about £1.89 per episode.

Blinkbox paid an advance fee to secure the rights and will share ongoing revenues with the BBC.

The BBC shows programmes broadcast in the past seven days on its own iPlayer service, but thereafter many of the online rights revert to BBC Worldwide, its commercial arm.

ITV and Channel 4 have been slower to do deals with third-party video sites. ITV is in the process of appointing a new chief executive, while Channel 4 is preparing a partnership with BBC Worldwide to stave off a funding crisis.

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