Marsupial misguidance 

24 December 2008

Pull out of Project Kangaroo, broadcasters told

With Project Kangaroo still trying to get off the ground, it’s perhaps predictable that someone somewhere might conceivably suggest that ITV and Channel 4 ought to pull out of the project altogether despite the long term strategic gains that potentially lie ahead.

And unsurprising is the source of this advice, namely Enders Analysis; the very same consultancy that earlier this year told the radio industry that they would be better off ignoring DAB radio altogether. (Advice that at least Channel 4 has taken onboard.)

It’s perfectly possible to see at least some (perhaps flawed) logic in the DAB advice, but ignoring Kangaroo is something that’s much harder to do from a UK public service perspective, even though Kangaroo is a purely commercial venture. And launching Kangaroo in the middle of a recession will be a good test of the project’s business model.

As long as the parent broadcasters’ finances are in reasonable shape (ITV is still looking good despite their moaning, but Channel 4 could be on the brink of hardship), then investing in the future should still be a high priority during an economic downturn, especially since Project Kangaroo will be dominated by public service broadcasters.

Since the current objective within Ofcom seems to lie with promoting and enhancing public service content in an era where there’s more choice from virtually every direction, there are very good reasons why the major established PSB’s should be involved with Kangaroo despite the risks and the short term financial suffering it may bring.

If Kangaroo was abandoned by ITV and/or Channel 4, it would leave the (likely to be) American competition free to clean up in this area, which would do public service broadcasting content few favours unless there’s a service that’s very popular with UK users (ie. millions of viewers as opposed to a few thousand hits on YouTube).

So Kangaroo is very important from the perspective of all three major participants, which is one reason alone why Enders Analysis’ advice will be consigned to the rubbish bin on this occasion. Unless of course the Competition Commission refuses to allow Kangaroo to operate even with certain compromises imposed.