TV fans could soon watch their favourite shows for a whole year on BBC iPlayer, as Ofcom has provisionally backed the broadcaster’s plans to increase the time limit.
Under the new plans, iPlayer will see its current 30 day catch-up service extend to 12 months as standard, with some shows being available for even longer.
The change to the time limit is intended to improve the value of the TV licence fee, which currently costs £154.50 per year. The BBC won’t start charging extra for the service, as the cost will still be covered by the licence fee.
The BBC faces stiff competition from streaming platforms, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, as well as other services in the UK, with the likes of ITV Hub, All 4 and Now TV all being popular among TV fans.
Over the last four years, BBC iPlayer’s market share has more than halved, while streaming giants Netflix and Amazon have seen their share grow from 36 per cent to 54 per cent.
Ofcom said it recognised that the broadcasting sector is continuously evolving and that the BBC needs to change in order to meet audience’s changing expectations.
The broadcasting regulator has given “provisional” approval to the plans to extend the availability of TV shows on BBC iPlayer, deciding after a competition assessment that it could deliver “significant public value” over time.
Ofcom said the changes would present challenges for other public service broadcasters’ video-on-demand services, as viewers may be inclined to switch to the BBC as their preferred streaming platform.
Much like the current BBC iPlayer service, broadcasters such as ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 normally allow viewers a maximum of 30 days to catch up on shows online after they have aired. Now TV customers can only catch up on shows for at least seven days.
Rival broadcasters now have until Wednesday 10 July to have their say on Ofcom’s ruling, with the final decision on the plans to be given in August.
An Ofcom spokesperson said, “Having scrutinised the BBC’s plans for iPlayer and listened to industry feedback, as required under the Charter, we’ve provisionally concluded that the BBC can go ahead.
“We believe the changes will provide value to BBC viewers that would justify the effect on competition.
“But we’re proposing certain measures to safeguard fair competition and ensure the BBC delivers full public value.”