Ministers have been urged to ensure that the UK’s public service broadcasters enjoy prominence on streaming devices and smart tv app line-ups.
At present the BBC, ITV, STV, UTV, S4C, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are guaranteed high profile slots on Electronic Programme Guides, a benefit which helps them retain large audiences among viewers using TVs and Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media set top boxes.
However, the increasing move to streaming risks PSBs losing prominence either because streaming services which also make devices promote their own content first, or because device makers enter into commercial deals to promote global services on screen and directly on the remote control.
In a report published today, MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee call on the government to bring forward legislation to guarantee prominence on streaming devices.
The committee also urges ministers to ensure streaming services which offer content originating from the PSBs “clearly” display the original broadcaster’s logo and share “top line” data, such as the number of viewers, with the broadcaster to ensure the fullest possible understanding of PSB content’s reach.
But MPs also call on broadcasters to take action ahead of any legislative changes by “exploring options for collaboration on a single video on demand platform” which would serve as a “one-stop shop” for PSB content and strengthen their position when “negotiating with platforms and manufacturers for prominence.”
To assist with such a collaboration, today’s report calls for the then Competition Commission’s 2009 decision to block Project Kangaroo – a proposed joint BBC, ITV and Channel 4 video on demand platform – to be effectively set aside by the Competition and Markets Authority making clear that “there is no automatic objection to such collaboration on market dominance grounds” given the changes in the broadcasting landscape.
Committee Chair Julian Knight MP said: “To enable public service broadcasters to compete in a digital world, Ministers must renew broadcasting laws that are nearly 20 years out of date. It’s a question of prominence – too often public service broadcasters lose out on dominant platforms with content that’s hard to find or isn’t branded.
“However, there is more that public service broadcasters should be doing for themselves and only by pooling resources can they hope to compete with the likes of Netflix and the platforms.
“The collaboration by the BBC and ITV on BritBox is a striking example of how they can work together to create a ‘one stop shop’ for video on demand content – a model for future work.”