BBC Unveils Streaming Plan: Broadcast TV On Its Way Out

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The BBC is on the brink of a major shift, and its march towards a digital future based on streaming is picking up pace.

Revealed in its annual plan for 2024-2025, published this week, the broadcaster is doubling down on its commitment to transform how we watch TV, a journey that began last year and is set to reshape our viewing habits over time.

This isn’t a sudden switch-off of traditional broadcasts, but a gradual shift towards a world where your favourite shows and live events stream seamlessly over the internet instead of over the air.

But as the BBC accelerates its push into streaming, it’s clear this transition won’t happen overnight, nor will it be without its challenges.

Photo: Deposit Photos / Claudio Divizia

With a significant number of UK homes still without reliable broadband, the move towards an all-digital platform raises concerns about who might get left behind in this streaming revolution.

Alongside its digital push, the BBC’s latest plan also unveils ambitious enhancements to iPlayer, aiming to supercharge the platform with more personalized content, new linear channels, and new fan ‘hubs’ that centralize content around beloved shows.

The Streaming Transformation Continues

The BBC’s journey towards a streaming-centric future isn’t new – it began earnestly last year, with several key initiatives aimed at preparing for a day when traditional broadcast channels might be phased out in favour of broadband-based delivery.

This pivot was rooted in the recognition that more and more people are watching TV online, a change that has guided the BBC’s efforts to enhance its digital footprint and cater to its audience’s evolving preferences.

In 2023, the BBC laid the groundwork for this transformation by focusing on improving the user experience on its digital platforms, particularly BBC iPlayer.

Fire HD 8 BBC iPlayer
BBC iPlayer

This included the introduction of features designed to personalize the viewing experience, acknowledging the shift in consumer behaviour towards on-demand content consumption.

Building on these foundations, the BBC’s annual plan for 2024-2025 outlines an ambitious continuation of this digital transformation.

The broadcaster is set to further invest in its online products, aiming to deliver a digital experience that is more unified, deeply connected, and content-rich.

This year’s focus extends to enhancing iPlayer’s product architecture, allowing for rapid improvements in user experience.

The plan highlights a commitment to experimenting with content release patterns (for example, whether to release a new series all at once or weekly), refining content discovery, search functionalities, and personalization, and introducing new linear channels within iPlayer.

BBC iPlayer loading on TV

In terms of content, the BBC talks about “a combination of new commissions, growing our catalogue of past shows, and bolstering our offer with acquired content.

“We will continue to seek exclusivity on key titles to give audiences more reasons to come to the BBC over the largely global streamers.”

Moreover, the BBC plans to introduce more aggregated fan pages, building on the success of initiatives like The Whoniverse (which is a dedicated hub that holds all of Doctor Who – both the classic episodes and the newer ones).

BBC iPlayer Whoniverse

These pages aim to make it even easier for fans of specific shows to dive deep into the content they love, ensuring they can experience the full breadth and depth of the BBC’s digital offerings.

Another significant area of focus is the live experience across the BBC’s products, with a particular emphasis on making iPlayer the destination for breaking news and big live events.

This involves reimagining how news content is surfaced within the platform, ensuring that live broadcasts are more discoverable and accessible.

BBC News on a phone 700

“This year”, the BBC says, “we will invest in our online offer and continue to shift our resources to become truly digital-first – with an emphasis on the areas research tells us audiences particularly value: online breaking news, high-impact investigations, and forensic verification.”

Freely And The BBC’s Broadband-Based Future

As the BBC forges ahead with its vision for a streaming-dominated future, collaboration with other UK broadcasters emerges as a cornerstone of its strategy.

A major element of this collaborative effort is the upcoming launch of ‘Freely’ in Spring 2024, a joint venture with Everyone TV, the body behind Freeview and Freesat – which is owned by the BBC and the other UK public service broadcasters.

Freely is designed to modernize free-to-air television for the digital age, offering a hybrid model that combines linear television with on-demand content available via the internet.

At first, Freely will only be available on brand-new TVs (from Hisense and Vestel, at this point), with set-top box support expected to arrive at a later stage.

This initiative aims to future-proof live TV for the streaming era, ensuring that viewers can access a comprehensive range of UK content across various devices, seamlessly blending traditional broadcasting with the flexibility of online streaming.

However, even though Freely will combine broadband-based streaming channels with aerial-based transmissions as a fallback for those channels that won’t have a streaming version at first – it’s clear that Freely’s focus and future lie with the streaming channels.

Freely UI TV Guide

But the shift towards a broadband-based future is not without its challenges.

In its annual plan, the BBC recognised that a significant concern is the digital divide that persists in the UK, with up to two million homes projected to lack fixed broadband connections by 2030.

In fact, a report published this week by Age UK, claims that 4.7 million people aged 65+ don’t even have the basic skills needed to use the internet successfully, and that 2.3 million people aged 65+ don’t use the internet at all.

This gap threatens to leave a portion of the population disconnected from the benefits of the internet age, unable to fully participate in the evolving media landscape, and worse – they may eventually be left behind without the ability to watch the most basic TV broadcasts.

Elderly couple seniors watchingTV

While inevitable, the transition away from traditional broadcasting underscores the need for careful consideration of those who might be on the wrong side of this divide.

Recognizing this, the BBC’s annual plan addresses the issue head-on, committing to a future where “no one is left behind.”

The broadcaster acknowledges the existence of a digital divide and emphasizes its role in bridging this gap.

The BBC envisions itself as a key player in ensuring that the transition to an internet-only world is inclusive, providing free-to-access online destinations that educate, entertain, and inform.

By focusing on inclusivity and accessibility, the BBC aims to lead by example, showing how the media industry can navigate the shift to a digital-first model without leaving anyone behind.

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8 thoughts on “BBC Unveils Streaming Plan: Broadcast TV On Its Way Out”

  1. Or Goren, I share your enthusiasim about your blog, but I’m finding it all too much to read, especially as you have a tendency to repeat yourself. Please keep it short, precise and to the point. Other than that…keep up the good work. Thank-you! 😀❤️

    • Thank you. Because many of the readers of each article are often new to the site and don’t follow these topics regularly, I tend to do thorough explanations each time, and that leads to some repetition…

  2. Eventually, it’ll all be via broadband, and recording will be a thing of the past.
    As soon as Freely is up and running the BBC will know how many are using the service, and either hastening or slowing the shift to broadband only.
    Ads will be an income, or subs without ads will be another.
    The days of linear TV are numbered.

  3. Not a single mention of any Freely gizmo being able to record and FF adverts. Are the millions with Sky+, Sky Q, Freeview, Virgin, TT, etc, all going to give up their freedom to do this now and give up their service for one which doesn’t allow record or FF through ads?

    I’m sure there is an agreement somewhere between the TV companies and the manufacturers of set top boxes to stop this practice, or to introduce a service like Sky’s ad skipping which is a very poor substitute and introduce yet another cash income stream.

    As usual, Ofcom doesn’t appear to know or even care.

    • The streaming world replaces actual physical recordings with a playlist/watchlist/continue watching facility and its a really poor substitute for recording what YOU want , putting it somewhere YOU know about and letting you fast forward/backwards as you want – and it does it fairly slickly. The patchwork of Iplayer,ITVx,Netflix,Now,Disney, yada-yada is cludgy,slow and often glitchy. Organising them all around a sensible interface will never work because they all strive to showcase their own content first. The only viable PVRs are the Humax Aura and (I hope, the Manhattan T4-R) I suspect all other manufacturers have seen the writing on the wall and abandoned development of any more PVRs. So you’re right, when Sky and Virgin give up their set top PVRs we are all doomed to a future where we drown in a sea of streaming junk. And yes we will be forced to consume an ever increasing volume of adverts. I am somewhat disappointed that Cord Busters are merely reporting this sorry slow decline instead of campaigning for a continuation of what we have now!


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