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The BBC on Thursday received regulatory approval to show content on its VOD service BBC iPlayer for a year rather than the current 30 days amid competition from global streaming giants.
Media regulator Ofcom said after a competitive review “that the BBC can go ahead” with the planned changes, adding that some programming will be available for even more than a year. “We have concluded that the BBC’s proposed changes to BBC iPlayer could 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,” it said.
Ofcom in this context particularly highlighted the increased popularity of such global streaming video giants as Netflix and Amazon. “In recent years the amount of live TV viewed by U.K. audiences has been in long-term decline, particularly among younger adults and children,” the media regulator said. “During this time, SVODs, including global offerings such as Netflix and Amazon, have entered the U.K. market and now attract millions of subscribers and take a growing share of total viewing time. Given these market developments, public service broadcasters are seeking to strengthen their VOD platforms.”
Ofcom said there was likely to be “an adverse impact” on rival streaming services from public service networks in Britain, but it would be outweighed by the public benefits.
The BBC had earlier this year said changes to its VOD service were key to ensure relevance amid changing viewer habits in the digital age. “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,” it said.
The Ofcom ruling could affect streaming service BritBox in the U.K., which ITV and the BBC recently agreed to launch in the fourth quarter. BritBox, which is already available in the U.S. and Canada, will in Britain be priced at £5.99 ($7.50) per month in HD, which the partners said “is less than other streaming services.”
The BBC said Thursday: “It’s great news that’s we will be able to proceed with our plans to transform BBC iPlayer. By making shows available for longer and by expanding choice, we’ll be able offer so much more to the public. We’ll continue to engage with the whole industry … in order to deliver these changes to audiences.”
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