Five plots major online and VOD upgrade

FiveFive is planning a “significant” relaunch of its online and video-on-demand (VOD) services next year. The news comes as the broadcaster insists it is still in talks to join Kangaroo, the on-demand joint venture announced by its terrestrial rivals.

The channel says it is in “advanced discussions” with a number of potential partners and has held talks with the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 over joining Kangaroo.

Lisa Opie, Five managing director of content, says further talks are scheduled over the “potential involvement” of Five.

Five was the first UK terrestrial broadcaster to offer a VOD PC service when it launched Five Download in October 2006. The service offered viewers the opportunity to buy episodes of CSI and Grey’s Anatomy,But media industry insiders say Five has fallen behind its rivals, with both ITV and Channel 4 launching more comprehensive ad-funded services, as well as streamed “as live” content. Channel 4’s service, 4oD, will be folded into Kangaroo when it launches.

Opie says the revamped VOD offering will offer ad-supported and paid-for content, in addition to social networking and community tools. Five head of digital media Jon Lewis is overseeing the relaunch.

The moves follow a strategic review of Five’s online business and the creation of a digital media department, pulling together content and commercial streams.