BBC iPlayer, the BBC’s streaming service, will soon get a major boost to its content library, thanks to an Ofcom approval which was given today.
As part of the BBC’s approved proposal, the broadcaster will be able to increase the number of older shows and boxsets, from the vast BBC archives, that are available on iPlayer – making the app a better streaming destination for viewers.
As it stands, when a new season of an established show debuts on the BBC, its past seasons are not always available on iPlayer.
Sometimes you will have to go elsewhere (to BritBox, Netflix, or even just on DVD) in order to find earlier seasons – even though they all originally aired on the BBC.
Why is that the case? Just like every other streaming service, BBC iPlayer offers a mixture of new content and a catalogue of older shows and films – a combination which helps pull and retain viewers.
However, unlike other streaming services that are only limited by their budgets, the BBC is also limited by its charter, and competition concerns that are monitored by Ofcom.
BBC’s iPlayer Changes Proposal
BBC iPlayer, for those who need a refresher, is the BBC’s streaming service/app, which includes both catch-up programmes that recently aired on any of the BBC channels, as well as box sets from the BBC’s archives and from other international broadcasters.
iPlayer has been around in an early form since 2007, and is now available on almost every Smart TV, streaming device and smartphone in the UK.
In its early days, iPlayer was only allowed to keep most of its catch-up episodes for up to 30 days.
In 2019, Ofcom gave the BBC permission to keep shows for 12 months (and sometimes longer) – transforming iPlayer into a streaming service, rather than a simple catch-up app.
However, the BBC still had to limit the availability of older programmes on BBC iPlayer.
Earlier this year, the BBC published a proposal that would let it increase the number of older episodes, box sets and films on BBC iPlayer.
“As required by the BBC Charter and Agreement”, Ofcom writes in its statement, “we have conducted an assessment of the BBC’s proposed change to BBC iPlayer, in order to determine whether the proposed change is ‘material’”.
The primary element Ofcom had to check, is whether these content additions to BBC iPlayer can hurt the competition, and give the BBC any unfair advantages.
Today, Ofcom published its decision – approving the BBC’s proposal.
BBC iPlayer Content Changes
So, what does today’s decision mean for BBC iPlayer viewers?
According to the BBC’s proposal, they will now be able to add more boxsets of past seasons of returning titles, as well as bring back more single-season shows that were no longer available on the service.
Therefore, once a BBC show returns for a brand new season – there’s a better chance you’ll be able to find its past seasons on iPlayer as well, and get up to speed before you start watching the new season.
According to the BBC, their archive covers a wide breadth and range of content and genres, and their aspiration is “to have the ability to publish any archive titles on BBC iPlayer across a broad range genres”, including:
- A richer archive of drama, going deeper into the archive to bring back more classic series as well as perennial favourites from comedy
- Entertainment and factual entertainment
- A deeper range of archive in the BBC’s specialist categories – Arts, History, Science and Nature, Lifestyle, Food and Music
- A rich archive of Children’s programmes to appeal to the youngest audiences and their families
- A world-beating collection of the very best documentaries
- A range of the best archive programmes to enrich the use of seasons throughout the year, supporting key events such as Black History Month or LGBT+ History Month or allow the BBC to grow the Faith & Hope collection on BBC iPlayer so there is always something for each faith, spirituality and religion available.
The BBC also emphasized in its proposal that they will – via BBC Studios – “continue to have commercial arrangements to provide programmes to commercial channels and on-demand services, such as BritBox and UKTV”.
Therefore, even though the BBC no longer owns a part of BritBox (and with BritBox being added to ITVX) it intends to keep providing content from the BBC’s archives to the service (as well as to others).