The Public Accounts Committee argues that the BBC’s commercial activities are working in an increasingly competitive market. This comes against a background of viewers spending less time watching linear television, buying fewer DVDs, and turning instead to the streaming of programmes from subscription video on demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Last November the BBC announced the merger of BBC Worldwide – which sells and distributes content – with production business BBC Studios.
“The BBC’s commercial strategy requires it to compete in an evolving and highly competitive global market. Much is riding on the success of BBC Studios – the biggest change the BBC has undergone in a generation,” said committee chair Meg Hillier MP.
“There is considerable scope for conflicts to arise. If the BBC decides to extend the availability of programmes on the iPlayer, for example, it may reduce opportunities for commercially exploiting those programmes. A balance must be struck and it is vital the BBC underpins its decisions with sound data and a clear-headed evaluation of the options.”
The committee said the BBC should learn from past failings such as the swift demise of the BBC Store. In working with partners – as is increasingly the case on big programme commissions – it should monitor its partnerships for signs of divergence between its and its partners’ interests.
The committee also requested the BBC should also write to it explaining how Global News could continue as a commercial venture if it were to receive a public subsidy.