The BBC has submitted a list of proposals that could drastically improve iPlayer to Ofcom, in the hope that they’ll make the service more appealing and deliver better value for licence fee payers.
Right now, the Beeb says, iPlayer is primarily used a catch up service, and unless improvements are made to it, the Beeb says it would expect to see a “continued decline” over the next five years.
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The BBC says it held a six week consultation between January 7 and February 15, and commissioned independent audience research from MTM, to work out what it needs to improve. These are the changes the BBC has proposed:
- A new standard availability of at least 12 months for all commissions
- Full box sets of selected returning titles
- A selection of non-returning programmes extended for longer or brought back from the archive
“Whilst audiences are increasingly spending more time watching online and overall VOD viewing is rapidly growing, BBC iPlayer’s reach has remained broadly flat over the last four years. Viewing of BBC iPlayer has been on a slightly upward trend,” the BBC wrote in its Public Interest Test.
“Our research into BBC iPlayer usage helps us to understand some of the reasons that BBC iPlayer growth is likely to remain low.”
It continues: “BBC iPlayer is not a weekly habit for most people. In fact, many audiences only come to BBC iPlayer once or twice in a quarter. With most programmes only available in BBC iPlayer for 30 days, infrequent users inevitably get a poor view of what the BBC has to offer them.”
Common issues with using iPlayer include searching for a show and finding out it’s no longer available to watch; trying to watch a new series, but finding out that not all of its episodes are still on iPlayer; not being able to watch previous seasons of a show you’ve just got into; and finishing a series, and iPlayer being unable to recommend anything similar because it’s no longer available through the service.
Not all of these issues apply to Netflix, and those that do don’t tend to affect it anywhere near as badly as it can affect iPlayer.
“As well as failing to meet audience’s expectations of a good content offer and service, more fundamentally, we are preventing them from being able to access the content that the BBC has commissioned in return for their licence fee, in a way that meets their reasonable expectations,” the document continues.
“With this limited and unreliable content availability, MTM’s research … makes it clear that our audiences, particularly younger demographics, primarily use BBC iPlayer as a catch up service.”
The top image shows the BBC’s idea of a typical user journey.
Ofcom will complete a BBC Competition Assessment before making a decision on whether these changes can go ahead.
“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,” said Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s director of content.
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“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.”
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