Kangaroo is still a good proposition for advertisers

If you look at what some of media's movers and shakers were saying in Media Week's review of the year at the end of 2007, one of the most exciting developments in 2008 was meant to be the Kangaroo online, on-demand TV initiative.

Kangaroo is a joint venture between ITV, Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide. It was - or is - meant to do for online TV services what Freeview did for mainstream TV channels: aggregate them and make them more accessible to the public.

It would enable the UK's mainstream broadcasters to get in a pre-emptive strike against potential competitors in the market such as Hulu, Apple, Microsoft or Sony, offering a ready-made on-demand platform to exploit on the web and, eventually, via the TV set.

There were teething problems, but the hiring of senior BBC executive and digital guru Ashley Highfield to head the project seemed to be a positive sign for the nascent venture. However, he is moving on to lead Microsoft UK after just four months, seemingly disillusioned by the political difficulties in bringing three competitive broadcasters together to deliver Kangaroo. The project team has also become immensely frustrated by the time regulators are taking to approve the concept.

There is confusion about how it will work alongside the iPlayer and how Kangaroo will differ from that. But the player has been built, the money invested, the technology is there and there is a will for it to succeed.

Tests are in the pipeline, but Kangaroo won't now appear until at least February, when the Competition Commission is due to deliver its full response to the issue of whether the initiative is anti-competitive.

In last year's review of the year, top Procter & Gamble marketer Roisin Donnelly spoke of being "really excited at media owners collaborating together to provide great content for the consumer and an exciting new platform for advertisers".

Kangaroo is still a compelling proposition, but other initiatives such as FremantleMedia and YouTube's joint venture are already in the offing. In the current climate, Kangaroo is too important to mess up and the media owners involved would be advised to shelve their short-term individual agendas for the greater long-term good.

Steve Barrett is editor of Media Week, steve.barrett@haymarket.com

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