BBC admits iPlayer is losing streaming fight with Netflix

Ben Arnold
(Credit: PA)

The BBC has said that it fears audiences could ‘turn away for good’ from iPlayer if it doesn’t address key issues with the streaming service.

iPlayer has seen its share of the UK streaming market drop from 40 percent five years ago to 15 percent in the wake of growth from Netflix and new options like Sky’s Now TV.

It’s also found itself tussling with Ofcom over regulations which see some of its shows limited to 30 days online before being removed.

“In today’s media landscape, audiences do not understand why programmes drop off BBC iPlayer after 30 days, or why sometimes the first episodes of series are not available,” the broadcaster said (via The Guardian).

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“They are left frustrated by the lack of box sets and confused as to why some shows are available for longer, and others are simply not there at all.

“This will threaten the BBC’s very ability to deliver its mission to serve all audiences and provide viewers with value for their licence fee.”

Ofcom insisted that the corporation undertake a lengthy public interest test before considering the lifting of regulations and letting it keep shows on iPlayer for up to a year.

The corporation has now submitted proposals gleaned from the test to the regulator.

“The proposals will simply allow the BBC to stop the continued decline we expect to see over the next five years,” it added.

However, there is concern that if the regulations are not dealt with soon, it could have a more dramatic effect on the service.

(Credit: Netflix)

“We expect that, unless we can do something to make our offer more relevant to our audiences, over time this may lead to people turning away from the BBC for good, challenging the core purpose of the BBC to provide a universal service,” it went on.

The BBC’s director of content Charlotte Moore said: “Audience expectations have changed dramatically, viewers are now used to being able to watch what they want when they want, and they expect much more from BBC iPlayer.

“We want to make the best UK programmes available to audiences for longer and provide a range of series and box sets for everyone to enjoy. This will bring the BBC iPlayer in line with what other services already offer and give audiences even greater value for their licence fee.

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“The media landscape is changing rapidly, and global media giants are increasingly dominant. We hope Ofcom can consider these plans quickly and enable us to deliver what UK audiences want and expect.”

iPlayer, which launched in 2007, was at one time the pioneer of streaming services.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told The Daily Telegraph in 2014: “The iPlayer really blazed the trail. That was long before Netflix and really got people used to this idea of on-demand viewing.”

Netflix’s expansion in the streaming marketplace has come alongside increasing use of services like Now TV and Amazon Prime, with the forthcoming Disney+ set to arrive in November this year.