Media regulator Ofcom has approved the BBC’s request to increase the number of archive boxsets is makes available on iPlayer.
The number of shows available on the service is currently restricted under rules set down in 2019, however broadcaster say these limit its ability to meet audience expectations and respond to changes in the market.
Under proposals set out earlier this year, the BBC argued it should “have the freedom to improve and increase the availability of programmes on BBC iPlayer by allowing us to publish – subject to our financial and operational constraints – any title on BBC iPlayer in line with our agreements with producers and underlying rightsholders, including the availability of any returning series as full series boxsets.”
Ofcom has now agreed to abolish the limits entirely but says the BBC “will still be required to consider whether any future changes to BBC iPlayer could have a material impact on competition.”
In doing so it dismissed concerns from Virgin Media that the requested changes would dent the appeal of channels operated UKTV, the broadcaster owned by the BBC’s commercial arm which operates a mix of free and pay channels.
The cable operator said that UKTV’s subscription channels were a “fundamental” part of its pay TV offer and warned that boosting the number of archive shows on iPlayer could lessen the appeal their appeal given that up to 85% of the most watch shows on some UKTV channels are BBC titles.
It warned that approving the BBC’s request would have a “disproportionate impact on the Pay TV market as a whole.”
However, in a document setting out its approval, Ofcom said the iPlayer would need to “experience a very large uplift in viewing” to have any “discernible” impact on any commercial operator.
And while it accepted that there was “some” overlap between iPlayer and the UKTV’s pay channels, the regulator suggested the BBC’s need to maximise commercial income would limit such overlap.