Microsoft says it has no plans to revive the Kangaroo online video project planned by British broadcasters but blocked for being anticompetitive. It follows a report that Ashley Highfield, the former chief executive of the Kangaroo project, now at Microsoft, has been talking to broadcasters about possible partnerships. A joint venture between MSN and ITV would be an interesting option.
In an interview with the trade magazine Revolution, the former head of the Kangaroo venture, who was previously director of future media and technology at the BBC, is quoted as saying he was “in conversation with broadcasters and content providers to see what Microsoft could do by partnering in this area.”
He resigned from the Kangaroo initiative after a matter of months to take up a post as managing director of consumer and online at Microsoft UK.
Following the decision by the Competition Commission to block the Kangaroo project, a joint venture between the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, Revolution reported that he had been in discussions with the stakeholders about picking up the pieces.
However, in a subsequent report carried by rival New Media Age, Ashley Highfield denied any plans to revive the Kangaroo venture.
“While Microsoft sees huge potential for online video we have not proposed to ‘resurrect Project Kangaroo’,” he said in a statement. “We will, as you’d expect, continue to collaborate with all of our commercial partners, many of which are broadcasters and content owners.”
The Microsoft MSN site is one of the most popular destination sites in the United Kingdom. It has always been a rather confusing mix of news and magazine items and there is clearly opportunity to provide a richer multimedia experience.
Incidentally, Sharon Baylay, previously general manager of online services for Microsoft UK, has meanwhile been appointed as director of marketing, communications and audiences at the BBC.
Erik Huggers, who replaced Ashley Highfield as director of future media and technology at the BBC, also came from Microsoft, where he was responsible for promoting Windows Media, although since he took office the BBC is now more aligned with Adobe.
The prospect of a partnership between the BBC and MSN appears almost politically impossible. However, Microsoft has previously established joint venture initiatives with commercial broadcasters, such as MSNBC in America and ninemsn in Australia.
A bold option in Britain would be a joint venture with the main commercial network ITV which is faces increasing financial challenges as a traditional broadcaster. Currently at its lowest ever share value it remains a potential takeover target.
While a company the size of Microsoft could potentially buy a broadcaster like ITV, which now has a market capitalisation of less than a billion pounds, a joint venture could make sense for both parties.
This is of course simply speculation on the part of informitv, but one way or another, a combination of MSN functionality and ITV programming could provide the prospect of competition to the successful BBC iPlayer.
The ITV Player, as its online video offering is now called, happens to use Microsoft Silverlight technology, as does the next generation of the MSN service, currently in trial as MSN Next and MSN Viewer.