When the beta of the BBC’s iPlayer released in July 2007, Netflix had only just pivoted to streaming movies over the internet. Fast forward ten years and Netflix is dominant. And that is a worry the BBC. “iPlayer must change,” Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, said earlier this season when outlining the corporation’s plans for the live-streaming and catchup service. In 2017, Hall said the BBC necessary to “reinvent” iPlayer.
“Our goal, even just in the face of rapid growth by our competitors, is for iPlayer to be the top online TV service throughout the uk,” the BBC boss said this past year. As we say, in the event you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Netflix, which really has an excellent DVD rental arm, has amassed 130 million subscribers globally. In the UK, http://iplayerusa.org/ can be used in 8.2m households, with Amazon Prime on 4.3m now TV on 1.5m, in accordance with figures from your Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB).
Netflix, Amazon Prime, now TV have some fundamental differences to the BBC’s offering: they’re all according to user subscriptions and mostly focus on movies and boxsets which can be viewable for a number of months, or years. In contrast, iPlayer mostly makes shows designed for 30 days after they were first broadcast and is also purchased from the annual licence fee.
To contend with Netflix, the BBC is making iPlayer more like Netflix. “It was way before anything else,” says Tom Harrington, a senior broadcast research analyst at Enders Analysis. “It has really plateaued due to it as being a catchup service rather than one where you could get full combination of tv shows.”
“They’re concerned with iPlayer and understandably enthusiastic about declining viewership numbers for younger people,” Harrington adds. 82 percent of kids use YouTube for on-demand content, 50 per cent often use Netflix and around 29 percent utilize the BBC’s iPlayer, according to the public broadcaster’s annual 2018-19 plan says. Each week, people aged 16 to 24 take more time on Netflix than all of the BBC’s TV output, including iPlayer.
So, with iPlayer getting fewer younger viewers as well as the BBC admitting it must have to reinvent the service, what’s happening? “They wish to transform it from the pure catchup service to something that folks head to and browse for content,” Harrington says.
The aim is for iPlayer to feature demonstrates that haven’t been on tv recently and people may want to watch. In 2017, Hall said iPlayer must “make the leap from a catch-up service to a must-visit destination in its own right”. Over the past 6 months, the iPlayer’s archive section continues to be loaded with more shows than before. Analysis from Enders found that boxsets added around Christmas 2017 brought 360,000 unique viewers per week to iPlayer.
The BBC’s own data for April 2018 shows there was 277 million TV programme requests for the month – a three percent year-on-year increase. Probably the most-watched shows were dramas with most viewers younger than 55.
Separately, the BBC’s director general has argued that user personalisation is vital to iPlayer’s growth. The BBC says 15 million people sign-into iPlayer monthly and therefore are given shows they may be considering. The corporation is planning more personalisation, even though it has not yet said what or how, during 2018.
The BBC has also been concentrating on new content especially for iPlayer and has commissioned popular YouTuber’s to create a combination of 20-minute shows aimed at 13 to 15-year-olds. The stars it relies upon can also be increasingly involved: Louis Theroux has selected a variety of documentaries who had a profound influence on his work, all of these are offered to stream on iPlayer. Separately, Netflix is increasing the quantity of original shows it is creating and spending $8 billion on new content in 2018.
Most of the Tv programs and movies commissioned or produced by the BBC don’t wind up on iPlayer for prolonged time periods as it is able to make money using them elsewhere. BBC shows are licensed to Netflix – Planet Earth, Luther and Sherlock as an example. BBC Worldwide also sells shows to international markets.
Harrington says in the event the BBC keeps their own shows on iPlayer for prolonged it is in the tricky position that they will be worth less in terms of sell them. “The immediate problem of transitioning a bolstered iPlayer in to a competitive offering would be that the added expense of purchasing or retaining additional rights to create the platform desirable to viewers will cut qisdjx content expenditure across the board,” he wrote in a research paper earlier this season.
But other events mean the UK’s on-demand TV market could change more radically. Virgin Media has dropped channels from UKTV, which is part owned by BBC Worldwide, following a row around it being able to show the channel’s shows on-demand. Reports have likewise suggested the BBC and ITV are working on the subscription service and may remove their content from Netflix. Before streaming your favourite shows gets any easier, it seems set to obtain a whole lot more complex.