The BBC’s decision to invest in the YouView TV platform has helped it secure a higher share of viewing in BT and TalkTalk homes than in Sky and Virgin Media homes, according to new research published today.
First launched in 2012 in partnership with ITV, Channel 4, Five, Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk, much of YouView’s initial development was carried out by the BBC’s Research and Development team.
Combining digital terrestrial TV channels with IPTV, video on demand and catch-up apps, the platform is used by the two ISPs to provide pay-TV channels which are streamed to the user’s YouView set top box via broadband.
With both BT and TalkTalk offering free or low-cost boxes as part of a TV, phone and broadband bundle, retail sales of set top boxes failed to match the success of the separate Freeview platform.
This lopsided sales performance has seen the BBC accused of using licence fee funds to subsidise commercial partners but today’s research suggests its initial investment and ongoing contributions are helping to draw viewers to BBC content.
Commissioned by BBC R&D and carried out by DotEcon, the research shows that: “the BBC share of linear broadcast viewing is higher on the YouView platform used in the provision of pay TV services by BT and TalkTalk than on other pay TV platforms such as Sky and Virgin Media and indeed nearly as high as on the Freeview category (which includes both Freeview Play and standard Freeview).”
BBC bosses have also faced criticism from some quarters for their 2013 decision to invest in Freeview Play which, like YouView, marries DTT and VoD content.
Reports at the time suggested the move was sparked by unhappiness within the BBC at YouView’s poor sales and a desire to have a pure-retail product which ISPs and other pay-TV firms would be unable to piggyback on.
Critics have claimed the corporation was unnecessarily duplicating its efforts, however today’s research says the twin platform approach has delivered benefits for the BBC by allowing it to ensure the “continued prominence of FTA offerings in a competitive marketplace” and providing “some influence over prominence of BBC content and the user interface in general.”
These benefits are also enjoyed by ITV, Channel 4 and Five which, like the BBC, enjoy “strategic control over the distribution and discovery of content on a platform that they all own.”
Today’s report also credits BBC R&D with speeding up the launch of HD on terrestrial TV by three years and, through its work on BBC iPlayer and Freesat, ensuring the universal availability of BBC and other Public Service Broadcaster content.
And the authors calculate that for every £1 BBC R&D spent during the 2007-2016 Charter period, it delivered a return to the UK of up to £9.