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TV heavyweights build on-demand supersite

BBC, ITV, and C4 ride Kangaroo

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The UK's top broadcasters have 'fessed up to working together on a single system for distributing TV online. ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC's commercial tentacle said today that they aim to launch the joint service on an unspecified date next year.

Details are scarce in today's announcement, but we're promised "an exciting collection of over 10,000 hours of the very best of the UK broadcasters' current and archive programming". We've known about the project, codenamed "Project Kangaroo", for some months now. The launch name hasn't been revealed yet.

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said it will likely be similar to 4OD, where catch-up streaming is free, and download to rent or own are paid for. She said the existing 4OD PC client offering will be superceded by software built for the new system.

4OD is available via BT Vision and Virgin Media, as well as on PCs, so it's very likely that the new service will be available on set-top boxes too.

The broadcasters refused to provide any details of what formats will be available or how they will be distributed. The trio have confirmed that both streaming and downloads will be available, and to UK viewers only.

There's little detail either on what will determine which shows are free, advertising-funded, or pay to rent or "own" (their word, but there's no information on what DRM, if any, will be used for viewer-owned content). It's clear that all will form part of the strategy to make money from the joint venture, however.

According to BBC Worldwide it will "complement" the BBC's existing, non-commercial iPlayer. ITV meanwhile will continue to offer its free 30-day streaming catch-up and online simulcasts of its channels via its website.

The company formed to run the new service will be led by Lesley MacKenzie, whose last job was director of channels and operations at BSkyB. The satellite broadcaster was conspicuous in its absence from today's announcement, though more partners are being courted. ®

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