BBC Trust bounces UK VoD future
BBC Trust bounces UK VoD future
Digital execs within the BBC were left seething last week when their plans for a more open version of the iPlayer were thrown out by the BBC Trust. Perhaps they’re back at their desks today following a reflective weekend, devising new plans to make the ‘Open iPlayer’ a reality? Who knows.
I’ll admit it, I’m a total sucker for all things BBC and honestly believe my days would be a lot poorer without Auntie. I’m writing this blog post while I ‘Listen Again’ to Guy Garvey’s latest from 6Music. Tonight I will check out iPlayer to see whether Russell Howard’s debut on BBC3 and Ray Mears’ latest adventures were a success. £139.50 per year? Pah! I spend more than that on PayPal fees.
Such blind faith from UK citizens like myself, weaned on ‘Watch with Mother’ and now letting our own kids mainline CBeebies, is partly what has made the iPlayer so damn successful thus far. Sure it hogs Britain’s bandwidth, but it’s the BBC, so for some reason we seem to trust it implicitly, and install and stream iPlayer media without many of the qualms we might feel with software and content from more obviously commercial broadcasters.
The recent BBC proposal suggested pushing programming from other terrestrial networks through the Beeb’s online channel. Imagine, ‘Katie and Peter’ or ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ on the BBC! Blimey. But when the BBC Trust, an organisation set up to give the great British public a greater say in BBC decision making, rejected the plan last week, it admitted it “supported the principle of sharing the iPlayer more widely” but ultimately decided the deal wouldn’t represent value for licence-fee payers. Alternative proposals for the Open iPlayer will need to suggest a less complex marriage of public service and commercial programming.
This Open iPlayer concept would have promoted commercial licensing of iPlayer tech to third-party broadcasters alongside a publically funded video on demand (VoD) service hosting a wide range of content from any broadcasters signing up to the project. The VoD listings were the real powerplay behind the project, without acceptance of which any Open iPlayer proposal was always going to be left dead in the water. There are some obvious parallels to Project Kangaroo in these proceedings. Remember that? Back in 2007, Project Kangaroo was proposed as a VoD platform with a blend of BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4 content. This would have been paid content and not publically funded, but would have offered a single platform for multi-broadcaster programming. The project was then blocked by the Competition Commission, put up for sale, bought by Arqiva for £8 million, and a launch was promised for, well, about nowish I think.
Ultimately, most observers believe that some level of integration is inevitable once the digital switchover is complete in 2012 and commercial realities bite even harder for ITV, Channel 4 and Five. So is the case for the Open iPlayer now closed? Will Operation Kangaroo really hop back into the fray? And where does this latest decision by the BBC Trust leave the UK VoD market as a whole?