Ofcom has officially greenlit the BBC’s proposed improvements to iPlayer, meaning that shows will soon be available on the platform for 12 months, rather than 30 days.
However, there are no black-and-white rules. Some content will remain on iPlayer for even more than a year, and it is also possible that some content will be available for less than a year.
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As Ofcom explains: “Any approval we give to the BBC to proceed in a BCA does not in itself impose a requirement on the BBC to implement all aspects of its proposal.
“It is for the BBC and its suppliers to negotiate mutually agreeable arrangements to secure the different rights needed to put its plans into action. Any approval gives the BBC the scope to pursue new arrangements, not the power to dictate the terms of a commercial negotiation.”
Ofcom gave the Beeb the go-ahead despite admitting that it is “concerned about the competitive challenges created, particularly for other PSBs’ VOD services and potential UK entrants such as BritBox”.
In a submission to Ofcom, Channel 4 wrote:
“We believe All 4 is more likely to be substituted than other [broadcaster video-on-demand] services for two key reasons,” Channel 4 explains. “Firstly, the iPlayer proposals are explicitly designed to appeal more to younger viewers and their choice of content to extend or bring back will likely reflect this. As a youth-skewing services All 4 will be disproportionately affected.
“Secondly, the fact that we are the only BVoD provider already positioning ourselves as a browsing destination, with extended content availability in our archive content offer means that we will be more heavily affected than other services which only offer catch-up.
“The fact that the BBC is advertising-free is likely to further exacerbate the impact on All 4.”
In its own submission, Sky raised questions about how the changes would be funded, and argued that the changes could “impact the BBC’s incentives to make its content available outside of its wholly owned iPlayer service”.
After carrying out a competition assessment, Ofcom said: “We have decided that the public value of the proposed changes to BBC iPlayer justifies the adverse impact on fair and effective competition we have identified; the BBC may therefore proceed with its proposals, subject to conditions.
“We considered responses to our consultation and have decided, in line with our provisional decision, that the BBC’s proposed evolution of BBC iPlayer could generate significant public value.”
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It added: “We are also requiring the BBC to closely track the availability and consumption of programmes on BBC iPlayer, which will support greater transparency over the scale and impact of the service. This will make it easier for the BBC and Ofcom to consider the potential impact on competition of any future developments.”