Update: C4 had already quietly launched embedded web catch-up a couple of months back, but only for Windows Media Player users. The new move introduces Flash format video and will essentially better integrate shows with the website by moving episodes from the Catch-Up section in to Programmes.
Original: Picking up the detritus of the Kangaroo blockade, Channel 4 is preparing to launch its new strategy for free online TV catch-up toward the end of March, writes product manager Andy Pipes. Unlike its 4oD TV download app, the broadcaster’s shows from the last 30 days will appear directly on Channel4.com web pages – very much in the mould of iPlayer.
This move hasn’t been provoked by Kangaroo’s demise but was sculpted last year in anticipation the project would go ahead. BBC, ITV (LSE: ITV) and Channel 4 had each decided to show recent, catch-up TV websites, which would provide on-ramps to archive material on Kangaroo. So the Channel4.com revamp was already going to happen; the important bits now are:
– Will Channel4.com sell shows?: Having been developed for free catch-up only, there’s likely no place for pay-per-view consumer transactions, a planned Kangaroo feature. To satisfy the Competition Commission, C4, BBC and ITV had already pledged to handle PPV transactions on their individual sites and not on Kangaroo – but it’s unclear whether the new Channel4.com player will have this functionality, will need to be retro-engineered accordingly, or will simply give up on PPV in favour of ad-supported streaming.
– What place now for 4oD?: The pioneering VoD app was due to be sidelined as C4 moved commercial archive shows to Kangaroo, but C4 now seems compelled to keep the technology, even though it runs only on Windows. Many shows like Desperate Houswives retail there for £0.99 – a sign video ads may still not be bringing in enough money to make them free. So 4oD seems destined to stay until C4 can work out whether ads placed against Channel4.com catch-up streams really make enough to pin on archive shows, too. If that happens, perhaps the catch-up and archive services could be merged and the distinction that Kangaroo would have driven between the two becomes pointless after all.
– iPlayer tech share not happening?: Although the BBC last month offered to share its successful iPlayer with C4 and ITV, the imminent Channel4.com refresh suggests this is unlikely to take place. And not least following C4 chief Andy Duncan’s remarks: “Their assumptions about the commercial benefits of a link with the iPlayer are inaccurate; we don