Arqiva, the broadcast transmission infrastructure company, has announced a key appointment for its proposed video-on-demand service, based on the carcass of the Kangaroo initiative that was effectively killed by the Competition Commission. John Keeling, former controller and latterly chief operating officer of the UKTV joint venture between BBC Worldwide and Virgin Media, will become platform controller, responsible for programming and marketing.
Arqiva announced its acquisition of some of the assets of the Kangaroo project in July. It was the only bidder, after Orange dropped out. Financial details were not disclosed. The partners in the original joint venture, the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, spent an estimated £30 million developing the project, which was abandoned before launch following a ruling that it was anticompetitive.
As a broadcast and mobile infrastructure company, Arqiva operates the transmission network for all the terrestrial channels in the United Kingdom, as well as providing satellite uplinks and fibre connections for these and other broadcasters, including Sky. Other customers include the five major mobile network operators in the country.
Arqiva could therefore be well positioned to act as a neutral platform operator for the online video services of its current clients, overcoming the objections of the Competition Commission. It could, for instance, provide part of the infrastructure for the proposed Canvas project, should that joint venture between the BBC, ITV and BT eventually be approved. Or it could launch its own independent offering, based on open standards that are already emerging.
Either way, it will need a critical mass of support from established broadcast brands, with whom it is already apparently in discussions. Arqiva said in a statement that it aims to host “top-end, quality content from leading broadcasters and independent content providers targeted at a discerning UK audience”.
Pierre-Jean Sebert, recently appointed as chief executive of the Arqiva initiative, said John Keeling “has a unique track record in launching and managing multi-channel television brands in the UK and understands the British audience as well as anyone in the business.”
John Keeling was at UKTV from 2001 to 2007, following a similar period at Sky where he was responsible for their movie channels, after starting out as a producer and director at the launch of MTV Europe. He said: “This feels very much like the new frontier in the same way as multi-channel did when I first joined Sky twenty years ago.”