British Regulator Calls on Country’s Public TV Broadcasters to Create Netflix Rival

With British-centric programming at the core of subscription streaming video-on-demand services such as Netflix, BritBox, Acorn TV and Amazon Prime Video, Sharon White, CEO of media regulator Ofcom, said the country’s public TV broadcasters should join forces to create a competing over-the-top video platform.

The United Kingdom represents the second-largest SVOD markets for Netflix and Prime Video.

Speaking Nov. 28 at the Outside the Box confab in London, White called on broadcasters responsible for popular series such as “Broadchurch,” “Bake Off” and “Blue Planet,” to combine existing OTT video platforms — BBC’s iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 — into a single service that could compete against Netflix and Amazon Prime Video more effectively.

“It would make it easier for viewers to access content across a range of devices, with a single login,” White said, adding that Ofcom has been encouraging U.K. broadcasters to collaborate and harness the power of technology to capture the audiences migrating online.

White cited the BBC/ITV collaboration around the 2017 launch of BritBox in the United States, which streams original series such as “Blackadder”, “Fawlty Towers” and “East Enders,” as a blueprint.

Indeed, Ofcom contends any joint venture hinges on the BBC — a prolific producer of original content for Netflix — which launched the iPlayer in 2007, the same time Netflix began streaming video with a branded Roku device.

“I remain convinced that collaboration is vital to the success of our industry,” White said.  “The sea-changes of recent years will not be the last. Nor can anyone be sure what competition and technology lie over the horizon. But while we cannot hold back the tide, our broadcasters can swim more strongly with it by working together.”

 

 

British Ditching DVD Players?

Heading into last week’s Black Friday retail weekend in the United Kingdom, tech shoppers apparently weren’t looking for DVD players, desktop PCs and MP3 devices.

New data from Ofcom, U.K.’s communications regulator, found that 64% of consumers shopped for a DVD/Blu-ray Disc player in 2018 – down from 83% in 2008. Another 27% bought a MP3 player, compared to 44% in 2008. Less than 30% bought a PC, down from 69%.

“As technology evolves and transforms how we live our lives, the devices we rely on are constantly changing,” Ian Macrae, director of market Intelligence at Ofcom, said in a statement. “The growth in popularity of streaming services has created tremendous demand for connected TVs, which for many people are replacing DVD players, and the smartphone is replacing several other devices at once.”

While smartphones (78%), smart TVs (42%) and wearables (20%) have increased in popularity among British shoppers, connected DVD/Blu-ray players affording physical and digital access still resonate.

In fact, excluding the ubiquitous smartphone, DVD/Blu-ray Disc players still top tablets, E-readers, digital video recorders, smart TVs and wearables on consumer purchases in 2018.

With Netflix favored by 44% of 765 million people globally who use an over-the-top video service, according to eMarketer.com, connected disc players remain an important conduit linking the living room TV with the Internet.

Indeed, through 2022, consumer spending on traditional home video and pay-TV will decline less than 2% to $11.5 billion, according to consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

 

SVOD Subs Top Pay-TV in the United Kingdom

The number of consumers in the United Kingdom subscribing to an over-the-top video service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video has – for the first time – surpassed those opting for linear pay-TV, according to new data from Ofcom, the communications regulator in the U.K.

Subscriptions to the three most popular online streaming services – Netflix, Prime Video and Sky’s Now TV – reached 15.4 million in the first quarter, overtaking pay-TV subs at 15.1 million.

The amount of time consumers spent watching broadcast television continues to decline. In 2017, the average was 3 hours 22 minutes a day, down nine minutes (4.2%) from 2016, and 38 minutes (15.7%) since 2012.

There were steeper declines among children and viewers aged 16 to 34, meaning consumers over the age of 65 watched four times as much broadcast television as children in 2017.

“Today’s research finds that what we watch and how we watch it are changing rapidly, which has profound implications for UK television, Sharon White, CEO at Ofcom, said in a statement.

The regulator found daily viewing time across all devices stands at 5 hours one minute, of which two-thirds (three hours 33 minutes or 71%) was broadcast content, and 1 hour 28 minutes was non-broadcast content.

However, among 16- to 34-year-olds, total daily viewing time in 2017 was 4 hours 48 minutes, of which less than half (two hours 11 minutes or 46%) was to broadcast content, with just under an hour per day spent watching content on YouTube.

“We have seen a decline in revenue for pay TV, a fall in spending on new programs by our public service broadcasters, and the growth of global video streaming giants. These challenges cannot be underestimated,” White said.

Indeed, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5’s £2.5bn combined spending on original, UK-made programs in 2017 represented a record low – and is £1bn (28%) less than the 2004 peak of £3.4bn. An increase in funding from third parties towards the cost of program-making has partly helped to offset this decline.

“But UK broadcasters have a history of adapting to change,” said White. “By making the best British programs and working together to reach people who are turning away from TV, our broadcasters can compete in the digital age.”

 

Britain Expels 23 Russian Diplomats, ‘Russia Today’ Remains on Air – For Now

British Prime Minister Theresa May March 14 expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the alleged nerve gas attack earlier this month on a former Russian spy and his daughter at a cemetery in Salisbury. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain hospitalized.

The status of RT (formerly “Russia Today”), the 24-hour Putin government-backed TV network broadcasting in the United Kingdom, remains unchanged. Several British politicians have called for banning the network, which features English-language programing on Russia and related cultural, political events.

In response, Russia has threatened to expel all British media should RT be stripped of its operating license in the United Kingdom.

“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down ‘Russia Today,’” Russian Foreign Ministry’s Maria Zakharova told the state-run RIA, as reported by Reuters. “No one can go to a parliament of their country and say: I give Russia 24 hours.”

RT’s operating license is controlled by Ofcom, the broadcast regulator in the U.K., which is treating the matter with caution.

The agency said it has written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s UK broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation. It said the letter explained that, should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK, it would consider this relevant to its ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper.

The letter to RT said that Ofcom would carry out “our independent fit and proper assessment” on an expedited basis, and would write to RT again shortly setting out details of its process.

RT, in a statement, said its programing continues to adhere to all established standards and is simply a pawn in a war of words between Russia and the U.K.

“By linking RT to unrelated matters, Ofcom is conflating its role as a broadcasting regulator with matters of state,” RT said.

 

U.K. Politicos Call for ‘Russia Today’ TV Ban

Members of Britain’s Parliament are calling for a ban of RT (formerly “Russia Today”) network and website in the United Kingdom following the suspected nerve gas attack of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury.

Current and former labor ministers Stephen Doughty and Chris Bryant called on Prime Minister Theresa May to take action against RT, which broadcasts in the United Kingdom under a license with the Office of Communications (Ofcom).

“Can we just stop ‘Russia Today’ just broadcasting its propaganda in this country?” asked Bryant.

Doughty urged May to expedite communication with other departments about banning broadcast of RT within government buildings.

“Why should we be watching their propaganda in this Parliament?” Doughty said.

RT, which called itself a pawn in the international incident, streamed a 2014 episode featuring Bryant on the network promoting his book on constitutional reform.

“Bryant is seemingly happy to appear on RT when it suits his interests,” said the network.

Meanwhile, Ofcom, in a statement, reiterated it has an “ongoing duty” to reaffirm that all broadcast licensees in the U.K. are “fit and proper” to hold a license.

“We have heard the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons this afternoon and we await her further statement on Wednesday [March 14)]. We will then consider the implications for RT’s broadcast licenses,” said the agency.