The BBC was an early adopter of the streaming TV model, launching the first version of BBC iPlayer back in 2007. Since then it’s remained a popular streaming service, offering viewers plenty of original content and live events that cannot be viewed anywhere else.
However, having once owned 40% of the UK streaming market five years ago, iPlayer’s market share has crumbled to 15% in recent years. With the continued growth and popularity of Netflix — along with the launch of new rival streaming services such as Disney Plus and Apple TV — it seems like it’s time for the BBC to implement a long-overdue upgrade to iPlayer.
The BBC has recently announced that it is preparing a complete revamp of its TV streaming service, moving away from a reliance on traditional television channels to share its programming.
According to a recent statement, all but the name will change, as the “look and feel” of the iPlayer platform will be changed and all BBC channels and live events integrated alongside box sets.
Though the vast majority of BBC viewers still prefer to watch traditional TV channels, this newest revamping of the iPlayer service shows the BBC’s commitment to maintaining its relevance to younger audiences and future-proofing itself for the inevitable shift in how viewers watch TV.
BBC director general Tony Hall recently described the upcoming changes as “a new front door for British creativity”, promising talent on “unprecedented levels of creative freedom” and a “broader shop window” on BBC platforms.
At this point, details of the newest version of iPlayer are still few and far between. Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s director of content, said: “iPlayer will become the heart of everything we do; the gateway to all our programmes – a ‘total TV’ experience, which will bring everything you want from BBC television into one place for the first time.”
The first major and obvious update will be the availability of BBC content. Whereas in the past the BBC has been limited to making its content available on iPlayer for just 30 days, Ofcom gave the broadcaster the go-ahead in August to make its content available for up to a year (that’s a lot of episodes of East Enders now available to binge).
The BBC’s move towards a more sustainable, modern streaming service is clearly a direct response to so-called “new players” in the streaming market.
While new services like Apple TV and Disney Plus — complete with a staggering back catalogue of movies and TV shows from franchises like Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars — will loosen Netflix’s stranglehold on the market, the British broadcaster simply cannot compete in financial terms with the resources of its US rivals.
This might explain why BBC iPlayer is currently a free service compared to the £5-14 monthly fees for other streaming sites, but you still need to be paying your TV License in order to access it.
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