The BBC has committed not to use the iPlayer as an on demand aggregator or launch its own social network as part of a series of commitments issued as part of a scaling back of the corporation’s online operations.
BBC Online will see its service licence budget be reduced by £34m from £137m today to £103m by 2013/14, a move that will see the loss of up to 360 job losses over the next two years.
This will be achieved by reducing the number of top-level domains run under BBC Online. At the same time a new unified strategy will run 10 distinctive products: News, Sport, Weather, CBeebies, CBBC, Knowledge & Learning, Radio & Music, TV & iPlayer, Homepage and Search that will run across a range of devices from computers and mobiles to tablets and TVs.
BBC Director-General Mark Thompson said: “BBC Online lies at the heart of the BBC’s digital future. As in television and radio, licence fee payers look to the BBC to inform, educate and entertain them online. As digital technologies advance, internet delivery of content becomes more important and more profound in our lives”. The BBC has committed to engaging with the industry twice a year to outline its strategy.
As part of the plan BBC iPlayer will be reshaped into a unified television offer, bringing together TV channels, programme information and live and on-demand content. There will be no aggregation of other sites – the Competition Commission’s terms that found against Project Kangaroo would in any case make this difficult – although iPlayer will link to other on-demand providers.
There will be no dedicated social network from the BBC, though Twitter and Facebook are already extensively used and promoted in BBC programmes.
Also off the agenda is an online music service and music concerts that are streamed only online. The BBC will no longer bid for online sports rights.
Broadband TV News recognises that, as is so often the case, the BBC has a balancing act in serving audiences and not distorting the market. The iPlayer for example has clearly kick-started on demand television in the UK, but at what point does it begin to smother commercial services? The use of online sports rights is an interesting one, are these sports that would not be picked up elsewhere, and no longer find a place in the schedules of any linear channel, or is this preventing smaller operations from buying those rights themselves? Extending to mobiles, tablets and TVs is certainly a move that the BBC should not be prevented from, as the commercial sector looks to the multiscreen world.