How Can iPlayer Be Better? BBC Wants Your Opinion

The BBC has new plans for improving its online iPlayer catch-up and streaming service, and wants to know what you think. It has launched a public consultation to ensure that it has the support and evidence needed to enact the proposed changes.

Bodyguard was one of the BBC's most popular shows of 2018, and owed much of its success to streaming. Credit: BBC

(Image credit: Bodyguard was one of the BBC's most popular shows of 2018, and owed much of its success to streaming. Credit: BBC)

iPlayer, which will celebrate its 12th birthday this year, faces competition in the streaming-content market from international rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as domestically from services like Now TV or ITV Hub. However, as BBC property, iPlayer is subjected to additional restrictions, such as the 30-day availability limit for many of its programmes.

These restrictions were put in place by Ofcom, the U.K.’s broadcast media regulator. As the BBC is funded by the TV Licence you pay rather than by advertising like all other U.K. TV channels, part of Ofcom's job is to make sure that the BBC serves as many people as possible, but not so many that other outlets can't compete with it.

MORE: The best shows leaving BBC iPlayer soon

The BBC argues that the current restrictions on iPlayer go too far the other way, and that iPlayer needs to be freed up in order to remain competitive with Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The argument places considerable weight on the strength of iPlayer's international rivals, and also how younger audiences primarily use the online platform as a replacement for, rather than a supplement to, normal TV broadcasts, and should therefore be catered to more effectively.

The BBC wants to change the standard iPlayer programme-viewing window from one month to one year, to make additional box sets of series permanent rather than temporary fixtures, and to add more content from its archive. One would imagine that these alterations would be popular with most iPlayer users.

These ideas are the subject of the current consultation, which will run until Feb. 15 and be published in the spring. The BBC wants opinions from a wide range of people, but especially those who are "industry stakeholders".

Once Ofcom conducts its own assessment of the market, it will either permit or block the BBC's proposals. Chances are we will find out in the next few months whether these changes go ahead, or if the BBC needs to rein in its aspirations of fighting toe-to-toe with Netflix.

If you want to take part in the consultation, you can find out more on the BBC's announcement post.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.