BBC’s VOD Syndication Refusal Backed By Regulator

The BBC Trust has provisionally backed the BBC in its refusal to syndicate out catch-up TV shows on a programme-by-programme basis. It means any VOD TV services wanting to host public service BBC shows must host the Big Screen HTML version of BBC iPlayer.

That will likely be a deal-breaker for BSkyB (NYSE: BSY), which would like to include individual BBC catch-up shows in its EPG but probably not under a distinct iPlayer brand.

The BBC has refused to help such third parties build bespoke installs of its VOD because it is fielding a burgeoning number of requests. The issue is partly cost – it has now taken its iPlayer on to 31 different technology platforms, but usually only via a one-size-fits-all web experience.

The trust agrees (full decision) but wants more than one HTML version: “The BBC is able to deliver the highest public value for its programming if it provides a trusted and familiar way for viewers to access it … Requests for ‘bespoke’ versions of the iPlayer for use by single platforms or devices should generally be refused … The BBC should develop several standard versions of the iPlayer that can be used by other platform operators and providers.”

Both opinions contradict current circumstances to some degree. Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) boxes have carried a custom iPlayer implementation for some time now. Counterparts could also argue it’s against the spirit of the license fee not to make BBC programming available more widely.

The BBC and the trust are happy for such platforms to list BBC shows in non-iPlayer-branded EPGs and menus – but those menus must link to the iPlayer-branded service.

BSkyB tells paidContent:UK: “It’s disappointing that some licence fee payers may miss out because the BBC is so determined to promote the iPlayer. We think the public would be better served if the BBC adopted a less rigid approach and unbundled its content for the benefit of the tens of millions of people who choose to watch TV on other platforms.”

This issue has background…

In 2009, Fetch TV box maker IP Vision was refused BBC cooperation to integrate BBC TV in to its EPG. The BBC promptly published this policy in new guidelines.

IP Vision complained to the BBC Trust, which ruled the BBC’s position correct in principle but said bosses had erred by not first running that decision through the trust. So the BBC reversed those guidelines pending this current trust decision, which has come to the same conclusion on a provisional basis.

The trust has put its provisional decision out to another consultation.