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Ofcom gives iPlayer revamp go-ahead

The BBC iPlayer VoD service is set to increase the time it offers shows from 30 days to 12 months after a provisional ruling from UK media regulator Ofcom.

The public broadcaster is hoping to extend availability and offer complete boxsets to viewers, including new and returning series.

Up to 35 archive titles will be available, plus half of current returning and non-returning scripted titles. New shows would likely be available exclusively during that period.

Proposals also include all new children’s programmes to be available for five years, with previous seasons of returning titles available as full boxsets.

Having completed its competition assessment, Ofcom provisionally concluded that the BBC can go ahead with planned changes, allowing programmes to be made available for 12 months as standard, with some available for longer.

Both the BBC and Ofcom undertook assessments exploring the impact of the changes, which has caused some producers to query how rights deals will be affected.

Ofcom said its assessment had considered the plans and that as the UK content sector evolved the BBC “needs to keep pace.”

“We have provisionally found that the proposed changes to BBC iPlayer would pose challenges for other public service broadcasters’ video-on-demand services,” it said.

“But in our view, the changes could also deliver significant public value over time. They could increase choice and availability of public-service broadcast content, and help ensure the BBC remains relevant in the face of changing viewing habits.

“So we have provisionally concluded that the public value justifies the impact on fair and effective competition, and the BBC can proceed with its plans.”

Ofcom said it had concerns “about the competitive challenges created, particularly for other VoD services” and the joint BBC and ITV streamer BritBox.

It also noted concerns that the proposals would “be costly,” meaning the broadcaster would not be able to commission as much new content. However, it also highlighted that its modelling had predicted that the changes would increase iPlayer viewing by between 21% and 52%.

It is now inviting views from affected parties on the provisional conclusions to be submitted by July 10, with a final decision expected by August.

The broadcaster launched its public consultation on plans to “reinvent” iPlayer earlier this year, as it looks to compete with commercial rivals such as Netflix, Amazon, ITV Hub and Now TV.

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.

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