BBC submits iPlayer revamp plans

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The BBC has submitted to broadcast regulator Ofcom the Corporation’s proposals to improve BBC iPlayer for audiences by making programmes available for longer and offering more box sets and archive titles.

In November 2018, Ofcom directed the BBC to conduct a ‘public interest test’ (PIT) to assess properly the value and potential impact on other broadcasters of a number of changes to the BBC iPlayer the Corporation wished to make, having provided its plans to Ofcom for consideration.

The BBC is proposing that programmes should be available on BBC iPlayer for at least 12 months after they are first shown; selected returning titles should be available as full box sets of all series; and BBC iPlayer should showcase more content from the BBC archive.

The proposals have been sent to Ofcom for consideration after the BBC carried out a full Public Interest Test which concluded that:

  • The proposed changes will create great public value and will not have an adverse impact on fair and effective competition.
  • The changes simply bring BBC iPlayer into line with the industry standard.
  • To impose limits on BBC iPlayer – as there are today – risks undermining the BBC’s ability to continue to innovate and evolve its service in line with changing market norms and audience expectations.

As part of the Public Interest Test, which invited feedback from industry stakeholders, the BBC also commissioned a range of audience research to inform the process. This concluded that:

  • 63 per cent of people surveyed felt our changes would deliver better value for the licence fee.
  • 66 per cent of people surveyed felt the changes would make BBC iPlayer more appealing to people generally and 63 per cent felt the changes would make it appeal to a wider variety of people.
  • As a result of these changes, BBC iPlayer will be a more distinctive service than others due to this enhanced content offer, and will deliver significant social value.

“Audience expectations have changed dramatically, viewers are now used to being able to watch what they want when they want, and they expect much more from BBC iPlayer,” noted Charlotte Moore, Director, Content.

“We want to make the best UK programmes available to audiences for longer and provide a range of series and box sets for everyone to enjoy. This will bring the BBC iPlayer in line with what other services already offer and give audiences even greater value for their licence fee.”

“The media landscape is changing rapidly, and global media giants are increasingly dominant. We hope Ofcom can consider these plans quickly and enable us to deliver what UK audiences want and expect.”

Following the submission of the BBC plans, Ofcom will complete a BBC Competition Assessment before making a decision on whether these changes can go ahead.

An Ofcom spokesperson said that the regulator recognised that the BBC needed to innovate and keep pace with viewers’ needs. “Under the BBC’s Charter, our role is to check whether these changes might harm popular, competing services like ITV Hub or All 4 – and if so, whether that’s justified by the value to BBC viewers. Now we’ve received the BBC’s own assessment, we are able to work swiftly and expect to conclude our process by August.”


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