BBC Looks To Ban Third-Party iPlayer Builds

The BBC, seeking to maintain its brand, says it does not want to make its programmes available to third parties for VOD distribution on an unbundled basis. The corporation’s executive makes the suggestion in proposals for changing its on-demand syndication guidelines, submitted to the BBC Trust last month.

The executive says: “We recommend that the BBC catalogue of full programmes should not be made available in a disintermediated way but instead under appropriate BBC brands, just as the BBC does not offer the opportunity for third parties to create a bespoke linear schedule from their preferred elements of the BBC and competitor schedules on any given day.”

That effectively means third-party platforms like Sky must carry an “iPlayer”-branded service within their own systems, if they want BBC shows as VOD.

But the BBC also wants to ban third parties from custom-building their own versions of iPlayer. This is something that the FetchTV box operator IP Vision tried last year, but the BBC refused to help.

The case led the BBC to clarify the syndication guidelines governing situations in which it will support such custom iPlayer builds on services other than its own. It said it will only consider technology adjustments for platforms with over 100,000 users and whole custom builds for those with over 500,000 users. At the same time, it banned third parties like IP Vision implementing iPlayer without consent.

Hearing a complaint from IP Vision, the BBC Trust said the BBC’s decision was correct in principle but that the executive should have run the new guidelines through the trust. So the guidelines were undone and reverted to a former version. The proposed new guidelines published today say similar things but go properly through the trust.

“The BBC currently has material concerns over the cost of reversioning for different platforms and devices,” the proposal says. “The BBC believes that self-build would compromise the ability of the BBC to ensure quality, especially around upgrading of the products.”

Following a parallel review, the trust also says that public feedback suggests iPlayer is serving audiences well. The BBC will on Wednesday unveil an upgrade to iPlayer that will include more social features.