Ofcom creates regulatory hurdle for iPlayer development | Major Businesses | Business
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Days after criticising the BBC for lack of transparency regarding its iPlayer development plans, UK TV regulator Ofcom has mandated the BBC to conduct a public interest test to properly assess the changes’ value and potential impact on other broadcasters.
iPLayer 19 Feb 2017
Specifically, Ofcom has concerns that there is a risk that the BBC’s plans to boost iPlayer consumption could come at the expense of its competitors, particularly other UK video-on-demand services such as ITV Hub, All 4, My5 and Now TV.

As part of its first review of the BBC’s operations following a change to its remit,  Ofcom noted that BBC had not provided it with enough information on planned changes to the BBC’s live TV, catch-up and VOD service. 

In an assessment to the scope of the changes, Ofcom has decided that they are significant enough as regards protection of fair and effective competition in the TV sector to merit detailed scrutiny. These changes include a what it calls a substantial number of additional box sets, which would be available on the iPlayer for an extended time period; changes to features, such as enhancements to the user experience and personalisation; and increased marketing spend.
Fundamentally, Ofcom said that it supported the BBC’s ambition to evolve and renew its content and services to ensure it continues to have broad appeal and relevance for UK audiences, particularly younger viewers and listeners, especially as it was facing increased competition from US SVOD giants Netflix and Amazon.

Yet Ofcom also noted that it was mindful that when the BBC wishes to make changes, these could significantly affect competition in the wider UK media market. It said that while the BBC may enhance public value and may encourage competition by offering more choice, stimulating demand, or promoting innovation, on the other hand its proposed changes may also harm competition and UK broadcasters. One scenario offered by Ofcom was where the BBC could potentially crowd out investment in UK content and services from other companies, which could ultimately reduce choice for viewers and listeners.

As an interim measure, Ofcom has directed the BBC to halt making changes to the iPlayer until after the completion of its public interest test and recommence only once Ofcom’s final approval has been given.