SeeSaw in 'surprise' talks on international licensing deals

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The Independent Online

Video-on-demand website SeeSaw is set to expand internationally less than six months after its launch, following "surprise" interest in the group's technology.

The move comes as the chief executive admitted talks to broaden the site's reach to computer game consoles and tablet devices.

Pierre-Jean Sebert, who joined the venture as chief executive last summer, said the group is in late-stage negotiations with media companies in two countries to licence its technology.

Licensing is now expected to become a significant revenue stream for the site. "It started as an opportunity, but we have now equipped ourselves in a strategy to deal with international expansion, on a business to business basis through partnerships," Mr Sebert said.

While he would only say that one of the deals was in Europe and the other was in a country "very far away", it is understood that one of the deals could involve taking the SeeSaw brand name as well.

Conversations had started before SeeSaw's launch, but since then there has been even more interest from potential international partners. It has prompted Mr Sebert to set up a "mini international department".

"I never thought I would be selling software," he said. "We have just started, and this certainly wasn't expected. It will become a significant part of the business."

SeeSaw emerged from the ashes of Project Kangaroo, a joint venture developed by the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV to provide catch-up TV, but was blocked by the Competition Commission over fears it "could become too powerful".

Transmission group Arqiva bought the site for £8m, launching it under the SeeSaw brand in February.

It has since had two million visitors to the site. Mr Sebert said: "It has been a very good start. The June numbers put us at the level of rivals who had been in the market for several years. The volume is increasing month on month."

The company is also in talks with companies about expanding the website's reach in the UK. Mr Sebert said: "We are discussing with a whole string of big blue chip companies in terms of further distribution for SeeSaw, beyond the laptop and the PC."

He would not be drawn on which companies, but said: "We are looking into the most prominent technologies including tablets, TVs and game consoles."

One glaring issue for SeeSaw is the lack of content from ITV. The broadcaster has yet to commit to the venture, as its new management has launched a root and branch review of the group.

ITV is expected to update the market on the status of its review at the release of its half-year results tomorrow. "We are waiting to see what comes of the review. The door is always open for discussions with them," Mr Sebert said.

Beyond the UK, the group has agreements with United States content providers such as MTV and Comedy Central – and is in negotiations with other big US houses – although users have to rent the programmes.

As it increasingly looks to diversify its revenues, it will introduce a subscription service in September.

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