It follows a call from the regulator for broadcasters to find new ways to distribute their programmes and capture younger audiences. The BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are tasked with making their output distinctive while facing increasing competition from international streamers such as Amazon and Netflix.
Last year, the BBC made 20 box sets available for an extended period, and added more than 300 programmes for a month over Christmas 2017. It subsequently announced a “reinvention” of the iPlayer as part of its Annual Plan in a bid to let it compete with other VOD channels.
“We understand the BBC must continually look to adapt to successfully fulfil its mission and public purposes throughout the duration of the present 11-year Charter period. But we are also mindful that when the BBC wishes to make changes, this could significantly affect competition in the wider UK media market,” Ofcom said in a statement.
The regulator acknowledges that any move by the BBC might stimulate the market, it fears there is the potential to crowd out investment in UK content from other companies. Under its plans the BBC would make available substantial amounts of content without subscription or advertising, putting pressure on as ITV Hub, All 4, My5 and Now TV.
Ofcom is proposing to scale back the BBC’s plans, allowing it to retain any series it has already added to the iPlayer since the start of 2018/19 and add to the iPlayer any series to which it acquired rights before Ofcom’s decision, and to make them available on the iPlayer until those rights expire.
Going forward the BBC would be able to make available a limited number of Box Sets as requested, but limiting the length of time over which they are available.