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Could iPlayer offer content from other TV providers as part of ‘Open BBC’?

Tuesday, September 8th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

BBC iPlayer could be opened up to include content from other providers, the organisation’s boss has suggested.

Outlining his plans for the future of the BBC, director general Tony Hall said although the iPlayer had helped “make the unmissable, unmissable”, Britain is losing out to rivals whose platforms could become “gatekeepers to British content”.

In a speech at the Science Museum in London yesterday ahead of the BBC’s charter renewal next year, Lord Hall described an ‘Open BBC’ for the internet age.

He said the internet had transformed how drama and other long-form programmes are distributed and he now wants to experiment with the BBC issuing “bigger and bolder series all at once on iPlayer”, so viewers can ‘binge watch’.

“The iPlayer helped create a market, and others followed with successful players of their own,” he said, “but the result is that consumers have to search across many different video players.

“Britain is losing out to global players, who are busy building platforms that could become gatekeepers to British content.

“We want to explore new opportunities to help bring original British content together, to help audiences and industry alike make the most of this opportunity to support our cultural crown jewels.”

The aim would be to increase traffic to, and investment in, original British content, he said, with a free offer at the heart and BBC content funded by the licence fee.

“We would also aim to make it possible to buy and keep programmes, as we’re doing with BBC Store.

“One possible route is to use iPlayer, which we will put at the service of the sector, using its brand, technology and reach.

“But there are other ideas too, all of which we want to discuss and agree with partners.”

'Ride two horses'

As part of the vision for the future, the BBC will move from “rolling news to streaming news” in response to the huge shift to mobile use, Lord Hall said, indicated by the fact that the day after the General Election one in five adults got their news from the BBC on their mobiles.

“So if we want to serve our audiences with the news they expect – and trust – from us, we have to develop still further our service on mobiles.”

He said mobile gives the best opportunity to deliver a “bespoke” news service that will inevitability be more video-based.

“Increasingly, in a way made possible by the internet and by mobile devices, people are enjoying what they want, whenever they want, wherever they are,” Lord Hall said,

“Indeed, it is perfectly possible that by the middle of the next decade that becomes the main route to what the BBC does.

“So for the next 10 years, we will need to ride two horses – serving those who have adopted the internet and mobile media, while at the same time making sure that those who want to carry on watching and listening to traditional channels continue to be properly served too.”

He said the internet strengthens the case for the BBC and its “enduring role in serving the public, describing it as “an Open BBC that works with creative organisations, partners – others in the media – to provide a platform for their work so more people can enjoy it.

“An Open BBC that is truly seen as a partner.”

Lord Hall’s comments come after Amazon’s streaming service Prime Instant Video announced that it would let users download shows to watch offline.

The move prompted questions as to whether rival streaming service Netflix would take the same step, but its chief product officer Neil Hunt was reported as saying it was unlikely in the near future.

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