The BBC has submitted proposals to Ofcom as it seeks to “improve BBC iPlayer” by making catch-up content available for longer and by offering more box-sets on the service.
The BBC wants to make programmes available on iPlayer for “at least 12 months” after they are first shown, make selected returning titles available as full box sets, and showcase more archive content on the streaming platform.
The proposals mark the end of the BBC’s public interest test, which concluded that the changes would create “great public value,” will not have an adverse impact on fair competition, and would bring the iPlayer in line with the industry standards.
“To impose limits on BBC iPlayer – as there are today – risks undermining the BBC’s ability to continue to innovate and evolve its service in line with changing market norms and audience expectations,” the BBC argued.
The public broadcaster also cited audience research that it commissioned, claiming that 63% of respondents thought the iPlayer changes would deliver more value from the licence fee and that 66% thought it would make the service more appealing generally.
“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 BBC Director of Content, Charlotte Moore.
“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.”
The BBC’s public interest test came after Ofcom ruled in November that the proposed iPlayer changes marked a material change to the BBC’s UK Public Services – a decision that was at odds with the BBC Board’s finding that the changes were not material.
Speaking at the IPPR Oxford Media Convention in March, BBC Chairman Davide Clementi complained that the broadcast regulator’s intervention had been “to slow the BBC down” at a time when “to stand still is to go rapidly backwards”.
Ofcom is now due to make a BBC competition assessment before deciding whether its iPlayer changes can go ahead.
Separately, BBC Director General, Tony Hall, sent an email to all staff this week announcing new management positions for iPlayer and its radio, music and podcast app, Sounds – creating a “single point of leadership” for both services.
Dan McGolphin, who already works across the iPlayer as Commissioning Controller for Daytime and Programming, has been upped to Controller BBC iPlayer and Programming. He will report to Charlotte Moore and be responsible for delivering the vision and strategy for the service.
The BBC will advertise for a Controller for BBC Sounds, with the successful candidate to report to Director of Radio and Education, James Purnell. The Controller will develop the strategy for Sounds, coordinating the BBC’s editorial, product development and marketing teams.
“These are big jobs – critical to delivering the world-class online services people expect from the BBC,” said Hall. “They’ll be drawing on the expertise we have across the organisation to create great experiences for millions of people everyday.”
The BBC launched Sounds last year and claims that the app has been downloaded more than two million times since then. It also said that time spent on the iPlayer is up 15% in the last 12 months.