BBC Trust approves Freesat entry into pay VOD

The BBC Trust has said the BBC can continue to play a part in Freesat following its approval of plans to include pay-TV content.

The Trust said proposals by the free-to-air satellite platform to introduce the listing of pay content delivered on-demand via broadband did not represent a significant change to the approval previously given in 2007. There was no need for a Public Value Test or for further regulatory process.

Under the plans some pay content, such as films, would be added to the Freesat EPG alongside the existing free-to-air content. However, there would be no adult material or live streamed sports coverage. The possibility of live paid-for linear broadcast channels remains open, but these were not a part of the approval.

Freesat itself will not supply any of the on demand content, but will allow third parties to do so through its EPG.

Some content will also be made available through existing channels using an on-screen prompt that would take viewers to an on demand environment. The plan is to use the upcoming launch of its next generation receivers – understood by Broadband TV News to include HbbTV – to add support for Digital Rights Management (DRM). Where technically possible paid for content will also be made available on existing receivers.

Freesat boxes are already used for on demand content, most notably the BBC iPlayer, and yesterday it was announced that ITV Player would be made available as an open beta. After plans for micropayments were revealed, ITV was yesterday forced to make clear that it would not be charging for content that is currently available for free on ITV Player.

The Trust says Freesat remains an important part of the BBC’s distribution strategy and is of relevance to licence fee payers. “Having considered the BBC’s position with respect to implementing this proposal on the Freesat platform, the Trust’s view is that the proposal to implement this function on the Freesat platform is consistent with, and will further the delivery of, the BBC’s wider distribution strategy.”

Between them the BBC Executive and Freesat consider that the proposal would create minimal market impact. It would add between 100,000 and 300,000 additional users and a small amount of incremental income over the next 3 years.