BBC Revamping iPlayer Streaming Video App to Better Compete Against U.S. Services

The BBC’s iPlayer streaming media app is as old as Netflix, launching in 2007 to help viewers in the United Kingdom catch-up with broadcast TV series and movies.

Now the BBC is set to launch a reboot of the service after its U.K. market penetration dipped to 15% from 40% in 2014 — the former largely due to the proliferation of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

With Disney and Apple bowing branded streaming services next month, the BBC plans to enable the new iPlayer to watch programming upwards of 12 months old instead of the current government-mandated 30-day limit, in addition to original and current shows.

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BBC chairman/CEO Tony Hall, in a prepared statement released to the media and reportedly slated to be delivered Oct. 6, said the new iPlayer would be a unique benefit to consumers.

“iPlayer is a great service,” Hall said. “But it can and will be even better. It will be a new front door for British creativity. There are exciting times ahead.”

Interestingly, the revamped iPlayer comes as the BBC and ITV launch BritBox in the U.K. — two years after the British-themed subscription streaming video service bowed in 2017 the United States.

“iPlayer will become the heart of everything we do; the gateway to all our programs – a ‘total TV’ experience, which will bring everything you want from BBC television into one place for the first time,” Charlotte Moore, director of content at BBC, said.


BBC Boss: TV Facing ‘Second Wave of Disruption’

First came Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu — the three subscription streaming video-on-demand service upending the traditional pay-TV ecosystem and business model.

The SVOD challengers resulted in media companies rolling out standalone online TV platforms such as Dish Networks’ Sling TV and AT&T’s former DirecTV Now (now AT&T TV), among others.

Later this week, Tony Hall, CEO of the venerable BBC, is slated to give a speech at the Royal Television Society confab in Cambridge outlining what he perceives is a second “American invasion” featuring new-edition SVOD services.

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Indeed, pending U.S. services coming to the U.K. include Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu and Apple TV+, among others.

“Our industry is about to enter a second wave of disruption,” Hall said in prepared comments. “The first was about the rise of Netflix, Amazon and Spotify — market shapers that fundamentally changed audience behavior, often at the cost of huge losses or massive cross-subsidy.

“The second wave will see a range of new entrants entering an already crowded market,” he said.

The BBC is fighting back by licensing original content, “Love Island,” “Gavin & Stacey,” “Gentleman Jack” (available in the U.S. on HBO) and “Broadchurch” on Britbox, the SVOD service co-launched in the U.S. and now the United Kingdom with ITV.

“We’re not Netflix, we’re not Spotify. We’re not Apple News. We’re so much more than all of them put together,” Hall said.

Indeed, BBC was one of the first broadcasters to launch a branded streaming media devices — BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds — to capture changing consumer habits.

“In the space of a year, iPlayer’s reach to young audiences is up by a third,” Hall said. “There is really promising growth right across the piece. And that’s before we roll out our full plans for extended availability and exclusive content.”

BBC Boss Strikes Populist Chord; Calls for Increased Funding, Greater Oversight on Foreign OTT Video

As expected, Tony Hall, director general of the publicly-owned British Broadcast Corporation, Sept. 18 issued a call to arms of sorts, as the public service broadcaster competes against international over-the-top video behemoths Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, among others.

In a keynote to the 2018 Royal Television Society London Conference in London, Hall said the BBC, which is funded by the government through a special tax, is increasingly asked to do more with less as operating budgets get cut.

He said that while Netflix and Amazon will spend a combined $13 billion on original content this year, the BBC and other public broadcasters will spend around $3.3 billion. Hall said the spending gap is resulting in a dearth of local content production, which he claims impacts British culture.

“Netflix and Amazon are not making up the difference,” Hall said. “Ofcom’s data suggests that less than 10% of the [catalog] of Netflix and Amazon [is] comprised of content produced in the U.K. Two separate estimates have suggested their investment into new U.K. programs is around £150 million a year.”

The executive believes reduced spending on localized content negatively impacts British viewers and the country.

“The content we produce is not just an ordinary consumer good,” Hall said. “It helps shape our society. It brings people together, it helps us understand each other and creates an incredibly powerful shared narrative.”

Specifically, the BBC claims to be a superior value economically to British consumers. Hall said each hour of BBC TV costs households 8 pence per hour to consume. For an equivalent SVOD service it’s around 17 pence and hour. And for a pay-TV service it’s 35 pence.

He said British media content is also a source of “soft power” required to combat fake news and online disinformation, which Hall claims contributes to the “undermining of traditional truths and values.”

The executive outlined five courses of action the BBC is addressing, which include original local content production, reinventing BBC services, investing more in children’s and young adult content, fighting fake news, and thinking beyond its London headquarters.

“But while we believe the BBC’s public mission is as important as ever, and that we can do more for Britain, we do not believe this ambition is sustainable with the resources we have,” Hall said.

He called on Britain to do more to support the broader PSB “ecology,” while sustaining “great relationships” with companies like Google, Apple, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Indeed, many “original” Netflix shows in the United States are licensed from the BBC, including, “River,” “The Great British Baking Show,” “The IT Crowd,” “Foyle’s War,” “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell,” “Wallander,” “Broadchurch,” “Planet Earth,” “London Spy,” and “Call the Midwife,” among others.

Netflix just announced it has secured exclusive U.S. rights to BBC One Drama, “Bodyguard, set to begin streaming Oct. 24.

“It’s important we work with them now and in the future,” Hall said.

At the same time, Hall argued “it cannot be right” that the U.K. media industry is competing against global SVOD giants with “one hand tied behind its back.”

He said the BBC is often hamstrung by government-mandated competition rules, advertising, taxation, content regulation, terms of trade and production quotas – rules he said “barely” apply to Netflix & Co.

“That needs rebalancing,” Hall said. “The big picture is a simple one: the public believes in public service broadcasting and a strong BBC.”

‘[Netflix & Co.] have their job to do, their services to provide. We have ours. Scale is not everything. Smaller can be beautiful,” he said.