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BBC iPlayer Overhauled As Online Budget Slashed

David Gilbert


BBC iPlayer Overhauled As Online Budget Slashed

The BBC could be charged with trying to do too much too soon in relation to its online content and is now paying the price. Swingeing cuts will take place at the national broadcaster’s online division with 360 job losses, £34 million in budget cuts and a “reshaped” iPlayer the result.

The cuts were announced by the BBC today and will see up to half of all the corporation’s websites disappearing. Reducing the annual Online budget to £103 million by 2013 will mean a lot of changes to the broadcaster’s output and the popular iPlayer service will also see some changes. What exactly this will mean for the iPlayer is not fully known as of yet with the BBC today saying: “"The BBC iPlayer will be reshaped into a unified television offering, bringing together TV channels, programme information, and live and on-demand content. Selected archive content will be featured in TV & iPlayer and Radio & Music."

There had been speculation that iPlayer would become an aggregation site for other online on-demand content (4OD, ITV Player etc.) but this will not now happen, however it will link to other sites. Another idea that's been dashed is that of the BBC launching its own dedicated social networking site, and instead it will have to continue its extensive use of Twitter and Facebook. The iPlayer radio content will also disappear as a result of these cuts.

Other areas that will now not go ahead include a proposed online music service and music concerts that would have been streamed only online. The BBC will also no longer bid for online sports rights. While the iPlayer is one of the major successes of the online department, it is clear that BBC Online grew to quickly and too extensively to be manageable and profitable. While these cuts will be tough to take initially, in the long term it could be a good thing for BBC Online.

Source: BBC

Party Weirdo

January 24, 2011, 6:12 pm

Opening up iPlayer to global audiences on a pay-per-view or subscription basis (like they are currentlly doing with the iPad version) would rake in the cash - there's a huge potential paying audience out there.


January 24, 2011, 6:18 pm

Ok the economy is in ruins, perhaps cuts need to be made - that's a debate for another day - fair enough, but why dress it up and say (reading the image) 'the changes are intended to make its website more distinctive and reduce competition' This is rubbish! Those involved will despise the cuts, notably those who loose their jobs.

Its ridiculous to say that the cuts will produce a more distinctive website, how on earth does that work. Why do they communicate with us like this?! It clearly is not the reason, the cuts are intended to save money and will most likely result in a weaker service and/or less innovation in the near future.


January 24, 2011, 6:57 pm

"it is clear that BBC Online grew to quickly and too extensively to be manageable and profitable"

Er, was it ever meant to be profitable in the first place?


January 24, 2011, 7:21 pm

@ balloonatic

Exactly. It seems like everyone these days is falling for Sky's propaganda of treating the BBC like a profit-srealing competitor, when it's just a well funded public service that they can't match up to in several key areas - news being the most important one. I think their online presence is fantastic myself, and I'll be sad if my favourite blog gets the chop.


January 24, 2011, 8:06 pm

@balloonatic - Good point that most people overlook.

What iPlayer has acheived is vast reach and appeal which spans all groups and ages. The BBC should be looking to sell the expertise that has driven this success to other countries via a consulting service - rather than slashing it's funding. That way the iPlayer branch could be somewhat self-funding.

Strange that the UK, as a nation, has such a great record for pioneering work and a terrible record in converting this into commercial success.

Thinking about the jet engine is enough to make any grown Brit cry - and we keep repeating our crazy mistakes.


January 24, 2011, 8:10 pm

I'm a bit alarmed about "The iPlayer radio content will also disappear as a result of these cuts" - does that mean they are not going to stream radio anymore or just that it will be available via other outlets?


January 24, 2011, 8:18 pm

As everyone else has said, this is 100% about having its budget cut and nothing else. Regardless of the savage cuts the Tories are forcing on our public services (rather than chasing Tax Dodgers like Vodafone) they would have gone after the BBC and they would have had their budget cut.


January 24, 2011, 8:51 pm

Surely the BBC has to stop being subjected to the monopoly abuse witch hunt its 'competitors' desire. Am I wrong in thinking that the BBC's raison d'etre is to provide high quality, timely and accurate information via broadcast media to the British public hence the legal obligation to pay for a TV licence if you use a TV, essentially a socially palatable broadcast tax to ensure that such a service is available to all not just those who can afford other services. I can appreciate that some business strategy needs to be involved to manage the vastness of 'Auntie Beeb' but I fail to see the benefit in bottle necking innovation and technical success. The online team appear to have done a quite magnificent job in making themselves the go to site/player for all manner of content and their reward: cutbacks. If the BBC is forced to behave like a private media company then it should be allowed to operate on a level playing field and left to mind its own business.


January 24, 2011, 9:08 pm

There's an easy way to secure a full-fat BBC On-line presence, scrap BBC3! It's a total basket-case of a station that makes ITV2 look good. BBC3 soaks up £115M of the Corporation's budget is only on in the evenings and is targeted at a minority audience (18-34s), yet seems to be untouchable. Whereas BBC On-line is being asked to find 25% savings yet is a resource used by millions of all ages around the world.


January 24, 2011, 10:08 pm

"The iPlayer radio content will also disappear as a result of these cuts."

Can you double check that? I can't imagine they're cutting such a fundamental part of their service while they still have the money left for some fripperies like social networking and blogs.

And H2G2 will be missed, although I suspect such classic entries as the non-electric can opener will be preserved elsewhere: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/...


January 24, 2011, 11:01 pm

The BBC has over 400 websites on almost every subject imaginable, all paid for by the license fee. It's not necessary, it's expensive, and I'm happy to see the BBC beginning to control the sprawl of its web division. I'm tired of publicly funded bodies expanding their size and their budgets seemingly without end, and definitely without mandate.


January 24, 2011, 11:53 pm

Pubilc services are not supposed to be profitable. Efficient with use of money yes but not profitable!


January 25, 2011, 1:09 am

Being late to the party due to other commitments @GoldenGuy has beaten me to it citing Sky's (Murdos clan's) propaganda.

However, the cuts have nothing to do with the state of the economy when Sky's been increasing it's subscribers by various dubious means with an average revenue per subscriber of around £500!!! With annual revenue as at July 2010 were approximately £5.5 billion. Now compare it to the BBC's Licence fee of £145.50 and total revenue of just over £4 billion for satisfying a nation of 68 million people. The BBC has been asked to pick up the £300 million annual budget for the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's propaganda arm known as the BBC world service. Furthermore, the BBC has been asked to support financially the roll out of broadband to rural areas and recently asked by Mr Jeremy C/Hunt to provide start-up capital costs of up to £25m in 2013-14 for up to 20 local TV services and up to £5m per year for ongoing funding for three years to acquire local TV content. All with a the Licence fee frozen for 6 years!!!

Sky Atlantic recently pinched Mad Men from BBC4 for a reportedly 25-50% above what BBC were paying. Sky Atlantic is no doubt 'inspired' or is it copied from Channel 5's Five USA? Is there anything Murdos won't rip off?

Despite this as the British Comedy Awards showed the BBC can still beat all comers with their hands tied behind their back. Indeed, just go and have a look at the Blog of "The Indian Doctor" @ http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/...

john g

January 25, 2011, 1:42 am

Personally, I think the BBC's website is a bit of a mess - pages that link to themselves, contact details missing from the obvious place and out-of-date information that is just misleading.

Similarly, if you use multiple platforms to access it, the iPlayer is a bit of a dog's breakfast. Accessing it via my PC and my Android phone (the latter using a web browser) results in a vastly different experience because the BBC insists on recognising my phone as a mobile device, thereby denying me access to the full-fat iPlayer. This means that what's available on the phone is often different to what I can get on my PC, and I have yet to get my phone to let me sign in and access my favourites. And, for reasons that I utterly fail to understand, the BBC only make 3G access to iPlayer available to a favourite few, the rest of us having to be on Wi-Fi.

So, yes, I think there might be an upside to the BBC stripping the website back, and looking at what's left with a rational eye. On the other hand - and this, for me is of over-riding importance - the BBC has always recognised, and valued, employees who are enthusiasts and champions, and I fear that it could well end up as corporate as its name might imply... losing the energy and panache of the sort of people who gave us the Radiophonic Workshop, the BBC monitor loudspeaker and other things like their attempts to demonstrate new technologies way before their time had really come, such as Tomorrow&#8217s World and 3D TV at a time when many of us were still watching in black and white.

So, yes BBC, go ahead and take a good look at what you've got and dump the dross, but don't lose the innovative people who have always given the BBC its edge and don't think you can strip out content and services that have real value unless you are ready for the backlash.

With regard to what others have said, BBC 3 is largely a waste of bandwidth, but it did give us Gavin & Stacey. I do agree that the day anyone starts to think of the BBC as a "profit centre" rather than a "value centre" is the day that we might as well tear up our licences and let advertising income become the Corporation's motivating force. Also I agree that, in order to get the best return from its programmes, the BBC should be putting far more energy into making media available globally on a pay-per-view or subscription basis.

Finally, I&#8217ve just had another thought - given that Dave seems to only show BBC's Top Gear on a 24/7 basis (and presumably makes a profit doing so), why can't the BBC lay siege to Dave and plunder all its advertising riches? Maybe this year's "Talk Like A Pirate" day could become "BBC In Need: Pirates&#8217s Day" and we could all dress up as pirates and launch a corporate but piratey takeover of Dave under the command of Captain "Dodgy Eye-patch" Pudsey"? Where, with any luck, we would prevail but Pudsey would be mortally wounded.

Simon B

January 25, 2011, 5:11 am

@john g - how do you propose the BBC retain their "enthusiasts and champions" when everything/everyone around them is being savagely chopped, while working within an organisation that typically pays individuals far lower than the private sector and can no longer offer their traditional fallback compensation of comparative increased job security or a good pension?


January 25, 2011, 5:18 am

@john g - Dave is partly owned by the BBC... do some research.


January 25, 2011, 8:08 am

So says @john g - from BSkyB?


January 25, 2011, 3:20 pm

So the BBC is stamping their feet in displeasure at the licence fee being frozen.

£145.50/year still seems a lot to me, as I struggle to think of anything I've watched or listened to on BBC TV or Radio.

It's a little strange that I have to pay for something I don't use. Also a little strange that we have a publicly-funded broadcaster with such a deeply-entrenched political bias - the left is part of the BBC's DNA (even the BBC's Director General admits to a historical "massive bias to the left" but claims - as you might expect - that this has improved on his watch).

My objection isn't though to the direction of their bias. Any consistent bias is unacceptable in a broadcaster the public is compelled to pay for and whose listeners are going to assume they are getting an impartial take. If they were instead to adopt Fox News's (comically overt) right-wing positioning that would be more objectionable still.

In this era of hundreds of channels and endless viewing choice, the BBC's special status seems a relic. Perhaps it's time to replace the licence fee with subscription channels? Then you pay for the BBC if you want it, they can set their own prices, and they can be as partisan as they please... everyone's a winner.

David Gilbert

January 25, 2011, 3:34 pm

@all The BBC is an institution and as such is held is high regard by a lot of people. This leads to problems as people become blind to its failings and faults. There is no doubt that in the past few years the BBC has expanded into the digital/online world at a huge rate and has done so with a seeming lack of focus. This has resulted in the necessity to slash HALF of its websites. Surely the money spent on these in the past few years could have been better spent and now I fear the money may never be seen again. The BBC in my opinion provides a superb service. From radio, television and online it is producing top class content. However recently there has been a wasting of tax payers money, not through indulging in wasteful practices but through poorly informed decisions - BBC3 being a case in point.

Anyway I believe despite the sad job losses, the BBC will be better for these cuts and may allow them to re-focus on what they do best.


January 26, 2011, 5:34 am


I pay for the crap on BSkyB every time I and anyone buys something as the cost of the advertising, sponsors (like those on football shirts etc), or product placements is factored into ALL products.

You know we don't use our nuclear missiles often enough, so why the hell should I pay them?!

I reckon in this era of the UN, video games and virtual reality I suggest we get rid of the armed forces and hence the arms industry and instead have virtual wars. Everyone's a winner baby!


January 26, 2011, 5:24 pm


(.) I was critical of the BBC, so I'm a 'murdo_troll', even though I was more critical of Fox News. What's your thinking there?

(.) If it really offends you to buy products that are advertised on BSkyB then I suppose you have a choice. There have been more worthwhile activist boycotts, but go for it.

Your argument kind of hinges on advertising being a net cost which is passed on to the consumer. But no company would ever run advertising unless they believed it would pay for itself in increased sales, so comparing bottom lines in the advertising versus non-advertising scenarios there is no final cost to pass on (indeed there's a benefit). Maybe Murdoch is subsidizing your Stella. Hope that makes you happier. ;)

(.) As regards your irrelevant defence example, I do understand paying for *insurance*. The BBC doesn't insure me against anything. If I'm compelled to pay for content that I don't want, it's more like being forced to pay my neighbour's newspaper subscription for him, no?

A better example would have been the welfare state, which I pay for, but do not directly benefit from or expect to benefit from. Nevertheless, the welfare state is a social good that could not otherwise be replicated, whereas these days the BBC's social value over and above any other broadcaster is debatable.

What's the problem with a subscription BBC? If people really rate its output everybody will subscribe, so no problem. Conversely, if subscription take-up is disappointing, i.e. people don't consider it represents adequate value, then what can have been the justification for compelling people to pay for it?


January 27, 2011, 11:56 pm

@simonm - did I mention your name? However, if the cap fits wear it.

"What's the problem with a subscription BBC?"

A Licence fee financed BBC means that it's standards are not compromised by commercial considerations!!!!!

Such and other reasons escape the simple subscriber folks of BSkyB.


January 29, 2011, 4:38 am

Anything publicly funded lacks competition and the constraint of making profit so is naturally going to be leftward leaning and it will attract and employ people of the same inclination.

To go subscription will result in broadcasting of the lowest common denominator as that audience is, unfortunately, in the majority. Non-PC? The truth hurts. Get over it.


I agree they should cut back BBC 3 but I am not in that age group. I can remember when we had more choice on 3 channels that we have on 130!

So publicly funded lefty quality or right wing commercial crap? You pays your money and takes your choice but I am all for a bit of balance. The economy will improve, humans are naturally optimistic, and the BBC will expand again from a solid foundation.

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