Video search engine Blinkx is hoping to piggyback the success of broadcaster services such as the BBC iPlayer by launching a one-stop shop for consumers wanting to watch TV shows online.
The search engine last week launched Blinkx Remote, which acts as an aggregator – or electronic programme guide – for on-demand and catch-up content from broadcasters including the BBC, ITV, ITN, Channel 4 and Five (MW last week).
It is also able to steal a march on competitors such as Project Kangaroo, the joint venture from BBC, ITV and Channel 4, which will consolidate the broadcasters’ content in one place, but which has been hit by delays. Initially intended to launch this summer, it must wait on the outcome of a Competition Commission investigation.
The delay gives services such as Blinkx time to build a following before Kangaroo, billed as the commercial iPlayer, brings its considerable marketing might to play. As Derek Luddem, managing director of Phd digital arm iQ, says/ “This will live and die on use. To become the default you have to drive people onto the site and get critical mass before Project Kangaroo.”
But with Blinkx’s small traffic and little promotion, Remote faces challenges in gaining users. Remote works by listing all the on-demand and catch-up content from a number of broadcasters and taking customers to that content wherever it is playing, for example to the BBC’s iPlayer.
Suranga Chandratillake, Blinkx chief executive, says Remote was mooted after noticing a surge in searches for TV content.
Some agree Remote has potential. Enders Analysis analyst Ian Maude suggests that consumers find it hard to navigate the internet to find where the content they want to watch is. “Remote is useful as it saves you from ploughing around,” he says.
Yet others say it will be tough for Remote. “Blinkx’s site traffic is currently small in comparison to YouTube,” Luddem says. “The challenge is about becoming the norm. People find the path of least resistance and go to what they know.”
Word of mouth
Blinkx had 570,000 UK visits in June, according to Nielsen Online, whereas BBC iPlayer recorded 2.4 million visits. Yet Blinkx is choosing not to heavily promote Remote, relying on public relations, viral campaigns and blog seeding over an advertising campaign.
The service differs from competitors such as Zattoo, which rebroadcasts live TV with no catch-up service, according to Chandratillake, who suggests Kangaroo is a more similar proposition, albeit one that hosts its own contentMoreover, Remote is “friends” with content owners, such as the BBC and ITV as it provides another route for consumers to watch their content.
An ITV spokeswoman welcomes the service. She says: “Remote can help show what demand there is out there. It’s a content aggregator and it’s helpful for us.”
Remote does not suffer the complications – or the expense – of broadcasters. “We don’t own the content,” says Chandratillake. “We also have no costs on housing technology or playing the content.”
And because it does not host the content there are no questions of its legality. “It’s not contravening any laws,” says Ryan Scott, search director at digital agency Twentysix Leeds. “It’s just one unified marketplace to find programmes.”
Remote will have no ads at first, but will eventually have display and links to related products. But Luddem questions whether consumers want another layer in their journey. “With most catch-up stuff, people know what channel it’s on,” says Ben McOwen-Wilson, ITV Consumer’s chief operating officer. “So providing a directory isn’t really a breakthrough.”
Blinkx may be the first to launch a legal online TV search service but with limited reach, a shoestring ad budget and no history of marketing content, the jury is out on whether it has more than a remote chance of success.