It's easy for Americans like me to develop tunnel vision when it comes to the Internet, subconsciously blocking out any website or issue that doesn't speak directly to our world. But the obvious truth is that there are millions of users outside the U.S. who care deeply about the same things we do: good UI, quality content, better SEO, etc. Most of our readers are somewhere inside the realm of online video—but there's no reason to assume that they're all American, in fact, many are not.
That's why I'm excited to talk about something non-American today, a new video content site in the UK called SeeSaw, which officially launched today. The easiest way to explain SeeSaw is also the laziest, and that's to make a comparison to an American counterpart—one that I'm sure many will make: SeeSaw is basically Hulu for British content. But they're also following the very trendy model of having some free content available to anyone with a premium service offered as well.
The free model is pretty sparse for now, mostly BBC programs, as well as shows from Five and 4oD—two other British networks that are probably not familiar to many of our American readers.
The pay model is pretty interesting, in that there will be both a subscription service and what's called a "transaction" service. That means you can either pay a monthly fee, which gains you access to any content contained in your plan, or you can simply go a la carte and pay per program (though it's worth noting that the transaction model is not a download—you only get the right to watch the stream of the video—and there's not currently any available information on how many times you can watch that stream before it goes inactive).
SeeSaw will mix the different content types together (paid and free) in an attempt to avoid creating two mini-versions of itself. Of course, as this C|Net article points out, that's bound to lead to user frustration when a video they click on for viewing turns out to be pay-only.
What about advertising? Well, the simple answer is that free content will be ad-supported, while premium viewers will be spared the annoyance of ads, which is a nice bit of motivation for upgrading, I should think. But it might limit some of the advertisers SeeSaw could go after. My guess is that the premium members will be more attentive and will consume much higher quantities of video—the kind of audiences most advertisers covet.
Some other differences between SeeSaw and Hulu? Well, no movies. SeeSaw is just for television shows, and there appears to be no interest on their part to change that. There's also no HTML5 version of their player—it's straight Flash, which probably means you won't be able to use it on the iPad. Otherwise, it's mostly just like Hulu but with British content. And that's not a bad thing at all. I am personally a pretty big fan of several BBC programs, and already wasted a bunch of time doing "research" for this article. I'm sure there are countless others like me, outside the UK, who will be excited to have access to this kind of content.
Which is why I'm certain that the founders of SeeSaw don't want to be thought of as a UK video streaming site. In fact, they've even got some American content in their paid section. And they seem determined to challenge the big boys in the video-on-demand world—though, in my opinion, they're getting a significantly delayed start in that race.
It's worth pointing out a similar service from BBC themselves, called iPlayer, though that site is strictly for content from BBC's own channels (and also has radio content)—but I found the user experience at SeeSaw to be much more intuitive and slick.
What's your take? Do you think there's room for another video-on-demand site in an already crowded space? (I do.) Do you think the content offered is the most important factor for a SeeSaw's success? (I do.) It's easy to dismiss SeeSaw as just a Hulu clone, but comparing them on the basis that they're both streaming video sites would completely miss the point. SeeSaw can succeed, primarily because they're presenting content that was largely unavailable before their launch.