BBC Trust Publishes Conclusions of its iPlayer Review, Begins Consultation on New Syndication Policy

--New Policy Would Ban iPlayer Self-Builds, Ensure iPlayer Branding on Third-Party VOD Platforms
--BBC Closes Red Button Blog, Launches New Comedy Site

The BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust, on Tuesday published the conclusions of its review of the BBC's on-demand services, including the BBC iPlayer (note: the BBC is expected to announce the addition of a number of social features to the iPlayer today). It also announced an eight-week consultation on changes that the BBC Executive has proposed to the corporation's online programming syndication policy. The proposed changes would mean that BBC programs could not be made available on third-party VOD platforms on an unbundled basis, but would instead always be presented as part of a complete iPlayer-branded offering. They would also ban so-called iPlayer "self-builds" by third-party platform operators and establish guidelines for the BBC's involvement in developing custom versions of the iPlayer for third parties.

According to the Trust, its review, which was conducted two years after the launch of the BBC's on-demand services, found that the iPlayer has performed in line with its usage expectations, has promoted "niche" and less well-know programs, appeals well to its target younger audiences, and represents good value for money. The review also found that future versions of the iPlayer should ensure that audiences continue to be able to find a wide range of content on the service, and agreed with the BBC Executive that more could be done to promote the iPlayer's parental controls. "The response to our public consultation was large, and overwhelmingly positive, which clearly showed the value placed by audiences on the choice and convenience offered by the iPlayer," BBC trustee, Diane Coyle, said in a prepared statement. "Reach and appreciation levels are high, with a third of all UK adults claiming to have used the iPlayer. Looking ahead, the BBC needs to ensure that it continues to meet the expectations of audiences." The full text of the BBC Trust's review of the iPlayer is available here, and The Guardian has some analysis here.

The BBC Executive explains its proposed changes to its syndication policy as follows: "We recommend that the BBC catalog of full programs should not be made available in a disintermediated way but instead under appropriate BBC brands, just as the BBC does not offer the opportunity for third parties to create a bespoke linear schedule from their preferred elements of the BBC and competitor schedules on any given day."

The Executive is also seeking approval of proposed guidelines for third parties that want to offer the iPlayer (in its entirety) on their platforms. It is seeking to prevent third parties from building their own custom ("self-build") versions of the service, and is instead proposing that it work with those parties to adapt the iPlayer's technology for their platforms, or even co-develop custom versions of the iPlayer, provided that their platforms reach certain deployment thresholds (100,000 users for technology adjustments; 300,000 users for custom builds). A document from the BBC Trust explaining its "On Demand Syndication Consultation" is available here. Paid Content UK has some background and analysis here.

In other BBC news:

  • The corporation is closing Press Red, its blog about the work of its TV Platforms group (i.e. the group responsible for its red-button interactive TV service). However, it plans to provide updates about the group's work on its BBC Internet blog. "For us, this move makes a lot of sense as there has been an overlap between Press Red and the Internet Blog for some time, especially in areas like BBC iPlayer," the BBC's Andrew Bowden wrote on the blog. "Posting over there will allow us to have a single home for our content...It will also free us from some of the overheads associated with running a standalone blog, and allow us to concentrate on writing more posts, and we'll be working closely with Paul Murphy, editor of the Internet Blog, to do that.
  • The corporation has relaunched its BBC Comedy Web site. A posting on the BBC Internet blog has more information.