BBC’s New Plan Will Shake Up Every Streaming Device

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Picture this: a new button on every streaming device’s remote (in the UK), exclusively for BBC iPlayer. That’s the game-changing idea BBC is proposing as it aims to modernise and stay relevant in today’s digital age.

The request is part of a broader push to adjust to the shifting dynamics of the streaming world, ensuring Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) aren’t sidelined as global tech giants assert their dominance.

However, it’s not just about an iPlayer button. This proposal could trigger a significant shake-up of the UK’s media industry, underlining the need for fair competition and recognising the value of public service broadcasting.

Traditionally, the first five channels available on the UK’s TV platforms are legally reserved for Public Service Broadcasters, including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and STV/S4C.

Humax Aura EPG filter

This ensures that the public service content is readily available to as wide an audience as possible. However, with the rise of streaming platforms and devices, this model has been challenged.

Streaming devices and platforms don’t typically have a traditional TV channel guide, and often, specific streaming services pay for more prominent app positions.

Furthermore, companies that have their own streaming service, like Apple with Apple TV+ and Amazon with Prime Video, often give prominence to their own content on these devices’ home screens.

And then there’s the hardware itself – on streaming devices like Amazon’s Fire TV and Roku, you’ll often find shortcut keys to specific streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and of course – Amazon’s own Prime Video.

New Fire TV remote in hand
Fire TV Remote

Companies often pay the hardware manufacturers for these promotional shortcut buttons – and the BBC doesn’t want to get left behind.

Drawing from their ongoing experience with linear TV, the BBC highlights that the vagueness of the term “appropriate prominence” often stokes conflict during negotiations, and worst of all, leads to failing audience expectations.

They cite the example of CBBC and CBeebies, two popular children’s channels, which, despite being favoured by 72% of parents to be at the top of the channel menu, appear on the second page of Sky’s children’s Electronic Program Guide (EPG), trailing behind Sky’s own channels.

Sky Glass TV Guide
Freeview On Sky Glass

The situation could get even trickier with more international tech companies joining the media market. These newcomers, focused on spreading their influence worldwide, usually aren’t too concerned about supporting UK’s public TV and radio services.

Plus, there’s a growing trend where big companies can pay to have their own content more visible to viewers. The BBC suggests that clear rules need to be set to ensure everyone gets a fair shot and audiences get what they want.

BBC iPlayer Button On Every Device?

In a bid to modernize its reach and remain relevant amidst rapid digital transformation, the BBC has made an ambitious proposal this week.

If approved, the new regulation would see a shortcut button dedicated to BBC iPlayer showing up on, potentially, the remote of every streaming device sold in the UK (assuming that remote even has shortcut buttons).

BBC iPlayer loading on TV

However, this move goes beyond just a button, potentially triggering a significant overhaul of the UK’s media landscape.

The proposal was part of the BBC’s wider submission to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Committee.

The crux of this submission was the Draft Media Bill, a piece of proposed legislation designed to revamp the nation’s media industry, with a specific focus on the ever-growing digital environment.

The primary legislation proposed by the BBC intends to make Public Service Broadcasting services and their content, among the most prominent (and accessible) options on user interfaces of streaming devices and some 3rd party streaming apps.

This applies to various access routes, such as homepages, app pages, search, and even voice search functionality.

So while the BBC agrees that TV-based services, such as iPlayer, should not directly compete with non-TV platforms like WhatsApp or Gmail on smartphones and tablets, it advocates for a broader perspective.

Fire HD 8 BBC iPlayer
BBC iPlayer

The BBC suggests that freestanding TV apps boasting a substantial number of UK users should be considered within the new regulatory regime as well, regardless of the device used for access.

This would include popular TV aggregators like TVPlayer or Sky Go, which enable users to catch their favourite shows on mobile devices, tablets, or laptops. In other words – when you’re using one of those apps, the BBC (and the other PSBs) should still get a prominent place.

With that, and by featuring an iPlayer button on streaming device remotes, the BBC aims to make its content easier to find and more accessible to audiences.

Although this move could be interpreted as the BBC seeking an advantage, it’s more about striking a balance.

The BBC aims to counter the growing dominance of global tech giants like Amazon and Google in the media space, advocating for a media ecosystem where both global and local players can reach audiences effectively.

BBC iPlayer Netflix Apple TV Plus

In response, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told The Times that remote controls are not in the scope of the Media Bill, but they will make sure public broadcasters’ services are shown prominently on streaming devices and Smart TVs.

Last year, I asked Amazon’s Vice President for Entertainment Devices and Services, Daniel Rausch, about this very thing. In addition to mentioning that the Public Broadcasters are “great partners”, he made a point of saying that “Fire TV already shows the BBC and ITV hub in the application tray.

“They’re already very prominent in our interface, so we’ll have to wait and see if there’s anything additional, but we’re really glad about our relationships with them today.”

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33 thoughts on “BBC’s New Plan Will Shake Up Every Streaming Device”

  1. The BBC already has far too many adverts for its own services. Radio. iPlayer. Bbc3 etc etc. Lose the licence fee and compete in the REAL world ,see how long it survives for. I would happily lose the BBC offering

  2. Just another ploy by TV licensing to try and force you into buying a TV license. “Does your TV or device receive BBC” bit hard to say no if they force a button on the remote BBC aren’t fit for purpose ever since 2000 don’t produce any quality programs, news service that is biased.

    • Agreement in whole. I can’t bare to watch any BBC content and I’m finding that my TV is hardly in use anymore and taken to more reading. Feeling not as aggrieved by the media which I consider a huge positive. We need to stop giving these companies platforms to spew their narrative.

      • Hmm. Sure if you think The Telegraph is the bastion of ‘Centrist’ news then the BBC is to the left, but coming from Gaurdian readers viewpoint, it’s right wing. Just about everyone from every political viewpoint think the BBC is biased one way or another which suggests to me, it’s actually fairly central. What I don’t like about the BBC news is that it’s so watered down of content, it’s washed out most of it’s value.

  3. I don’t consume ANY BBC product whatsoever. I don’t watch any live TV and don’t listen to radio. Not even the BBC website for news. And I’ve stopped using iPlayer since they’ve introduced mandatory login.
    I’m so fed up with them, I don’t want to hear about them. And no, I don’t want any service to have a separate button on my remotes.

      • Errr. Some people actually get their news some place other than the TV. Personally, despite having zero interest in finance, I usually head for the FT or Reuters or even the Economist for my news. Utterly pointless relying on any tabloid for news. The Telegraph is pretty much a tabloid these say too. That leaves us with the Guardian and The Times which whilst the bias of both is obvious, at least they try to present facts as well as opinion. I can always watch YouTube versions of TV from BBC, CHANNEL 4, Sky if I have to but rarely do. I often whizz around European, US and Asian news sites to see what they have to say too. Getting your news from one source is asking for trouble. Just noting what one newspaper reports and another ignores is useful information in it’s own right.

        Of all the things I think the BBC needs fixing, it’s bias is not one of them.

  4. Whatever happens, if you don’t watch BBC you should not be forced to pay for it. You should be able to watch all other Commercial Channels completely free as they already receive advertising revenue.

  5. The BBC need to sort out the buffering problem with the iPlayer before they even consider adding some sort of levy. I don’t personally bother with it because of this. Never have this problem with Netflix and Prime. So if they can do it, so can the BBC

    • Surely there is a legal issue here, encouraging people to use an app that legally requires a government tax enrolment. Be like having a kodi button or a Smart IPTV button.

  6. I watch bbc new sometimes in the morning it’s coming from presenters in Singapore where as sky news is free on my tablet so why should I pay BBC

  7. I presume that they will then insist that retailers report every sale of a streaming device with a iPlayer button, so that they can check if they have a TV licence.

  8. Great. Another useless button on my remote. Not watched BBC in many years. They are no longer relevant in today’s society, forcing a bill on many who don’t watch only prevokes hatred towards a dinosaur institution.

  9. Please no. Half the buttons on my remote don’t do anything because I haven’t signed up for the service. We don’t need another one. How about forcing manufacturers to provide customisable remotes where we can choose what button does what.

  10. All the above are fine investment wise if the measures taken return on the investment but unfortunately the BBC are trying to correct a trend in their viewing figures by changing the way open competition works. They have flagging viewers because of poor content and numerous subject bais. You can put on a glowing button half the size of the remote but people still need to want to push it. Same for the device menu. You can rearrange the main menu on all devices to rearrange the favourites so are the BBC asking for them to be locked at the top of the main menu?

    • We don’t want more buttons and we don’t want the BBC and their tax , let them go subscription, then their supporters will find out exactly how much they are loved.

  11. The BBC needs to up the quality of iPlayer to give viewers full HD picture quality and multichannel audio first, rather than try and push 20th century streaming services. Other streaming services offer far greater quality. The occasional 4K HLG offering is no substitute for bringing iPlayer into the 21st century. Perhaps then iPlayer will be worthy of a dedicated button on TV remotes.

  12. The BBC need to think about putting adverts on their programs or have a subscription model so the TV License can go the way of the dog license.That would make more sense than a BBC iPlayer button.

    • Nope. No ads. But definitely a tiered approach where people pay for what they use or want to use across the entire BBC platform.

      I am surprised we don’t have a BBC or Britbox branded streaming device though in the same vein as the Now TV Roku based device. That would allow the BBC to develop iplayer to provide exactly what they are talking about here – a TV guide that provides equal billing to all the streaming platforms while keeping the public service broadcasting channels front and centre.

      • I think the TV license solution needs to be bolder. I think a levy on every internet connection (say £2 a month) across home and business connections as well as mobile phones.
        It would mean 100% payment for people who access bbc services, and bring in money from businesses who don’t have a TV license but probably should. The average household of 4 people would end up paying less than the current model overall without damaging bbc revenue. Single occupancy households would pay even less.
        This to me feels the only solution to continue the BBC in a digital age without destroying what makes it special.

        • But I don’t watch BBC TV anymore. I practically don’t watch any TV full stop. Pretty much only interested in movies and the BBC ain’t really known for being current with those.

          Why should I be forced to pay (twice as I have a work and home internet connection) for what I don’t use? Not all of us have an internet connection for entertainment. Some of us solely use them for work. People who watch the BBC should pay for it but a blanket charge is not the way to go.

          In fact, I suggest the totally opposite direction. If I could pay per view for the 1, maybe 2 BBC shows that interest me then that would be my choice.

          • You may be in the minority, but I honestly think 90% of the people who think they ‘don’t use the BBC’ forget how much online content (News/Sport/Bitesize etc.) and audio/radio/podcast content they consume from the BBC. As well as the odd TV show that they claim they can do without. I think £2 per device isn’t a bad sell once people realise what they would loose if the BBC went commercial.

        • Absolutely not!

          The BBC should be forced to encrypt their broadcasts. Those that pay get a decryption card.

          Just like every other service…

        • No worries please no. I have things far better to do than give the junk BBC £2. This is just immoral, and unethical. I understand you love the BBC, but there are people that don’t care about it, whether it survives or not.


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