New proposals for the syndication of BBC content may have unintended consequences for the pay-TV sector, writes Julian Clover.
Flicking through TV channels I happened upon the new Channel 4 gameshow Famous and Fearless that gives a good example of branding that broadcasters no longer care for. The show is hosted by Chris Evans, who plays the tunes on the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, and Claire Balding, the presenter of what’s left of the BBC’s racing coverage. Unless you do the weather, you can ply your trade as a presenter across any number of channels.
When it comes to branding your VOD service, that’s a different matter, in common with other broadcasters the BBC wants to retain the look and feel of its service wherever the viewer might find it. That’s a bit of a problem when the platforms on which they appear might want to do the same thing.
Sky and Virgin both have issues with the new BBC syndication policy that looks to restrict third party iterations of the BBC iPlayer and prevent platforms from selecting but a fraction of its content.
Under the proposals recently announced by the BBC Trust platforms cannot pick and choose which BBC content they include as part of an on demand service. So something like Sky Anytime that downloads a selection of around 25 shows to Sky+ receivers couldn’t add a handful of the best BBC shows in the way it currently does with Sky One, National Geographic, History Channel or Disney Channel.
Sky has an editorial team that chooses which shows are downloaded in consultation with those providing the content, so if there was any picking and choosing to be done, the BBC could play a part. It’s just that under the current way of doing things it would be Sky’s look and feel.
But go into iTunes and once the seven-day free window has closed on the iPlayer BBC Worldwide will sell you episodes of the latest shows at £1.89 a time. Some of those shows will then go on to appear on UKTV channels including Dave, GOLD and Alibi.
The all or nothing approach indicates a shift in part from when effort for the Red Button temporarily moved to the Sky platform from Freeview once an agreement had been reached.
Take this as a possible scenario: based on the latest Ofcom figures satellite, including Freesat and Sky, is currently neck and neck with DTT when it comes to the primary set. Satellite is ahead as a whole, but with Freeview being the most likely destination for those last remaining switchers, it will probably end up in the lead.
It seems a bit of a waste that some three million Sky+ HD receivers that are capable of receiving content over the internet – not forgetting those standard Sky+ receivers that have the download service – should be deprived of BBC content. Freeview households will probably have to purchase a new, yep, YouView receiver.
It is right to ensure that those who have chosen not to go the pay-TV route are not deprived of Licence Fee-funded on demand, but it doesn’t seem fair to deprive pay customers either.