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BBC consults on iPlayer update

The BBC in the UK has launched a public consultation on plans to “reinvent” its on-demand service iPlayer, with ambitions to extend the window on all shows to 12 months.

Charlotte Moore

The public broadcaster is also hoping to offer complete boxsets to viewers, including new and returning series, with the consultation set to run until February 15.

The BBC said the “improvements” would allow it to “deliver value for money for licence fee payers following increased competition from US streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, alongside UK services such as ITV Hub, All 4, My5, UKTV Play and Now TV, all of whom can make their content available for much longer.”

The consultation is the first formal step in the BBC publishing a Public Interest Test, which is required under its royal charter if it wishes to alter the way it operates.

The test, which will consider the proposals and the potential impact on commercial rivals, is expected to be published in the spring with media regulator Ofcom then deciding whether the changes can proceed.

Ofcom instructed the broadcaster to launch this initial consultation after the BBC unveiled plans to change its on-demand offering in November.

The BBC has already started discussing proposals with producers and UK trade body Pact, which previously said the pubcaster was pressurising rights holders to extend terms.

At present the BBC is limited in most cases to making shows available online for only 30 days, something it argues is limiting its ability to compete with commercial rivals.

The BBC said this restriction would stifle its ability to innovate, adding that “rather than being at the forefront of change, we would be in the rearguard.”

Commercial rival ITV offers a six-month window on one-off series and boxsets via its on-demand service ITV Hub, while All4, pubcaster Channel 4’s VoD service, also offers numerous boxsets.

Charlotte Moore, director of BBC Content, said: “We know that in the future BBC iPlayer will be the main way many people will want to watch the BBC. It already is for many younger viewers.

“These changes are about ensuring we continue to deliver value for money to licence fee payers – and meet expectations of viewers who want to watch full series whenever they choose to.

“It’s also important that regulation recognises that there should be a level playing field for public service broadcasters, to ensure British stories are being told for British audiences.”

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