BBC loosens grip over syndication rights

The BBC’s content will, in the future, be available in catch-up mode via third-party platforms beyond its own iPlayer portal, following relaxation of carriage rights by the broadcaster’s regulator, the BBC Trust. Until now, scheduled services have been available via TV operators such as BSkyB, but catch-up content has been confined to specific versions of the iPlayer. This has enabled the BBC to retain control over the look and feel of the EPG used to locate content on the iPlayer, usually confined to programs that were broadcast during the previous week.

But now, the BBC Trust has stated that while it still believed BBC content was best viewed within iPlayer, it accepts in the emerging connected TV age that people should be able to access BBC on-demand content on different platforms.

The BBC has not yet clarified exactly how the revised rules will be implemented, but it looks like enabling satellite operator Sky to make BBC content available on demand. Sky’s rival operator Virgin Media already provides access directly to on demand content via the iPlayer, following agreement with the BBC, as does IPTV operator BT Vision.

This new deal for on-demand content is confined to the UK, where BBC catch up content as well as scheduled programming is free. However, the BBC is extending access to on-demand content via the iPlayer to other countries, but for a subscription. The BBC launched the international version of the iPlayer in July 2011 in eleven Western European countries, in the form of an iPad application offering a limited amount of content free supported by pre-roll ads and sponsorship, but with most programming confined to subscribers at a charge of 6.99 Euros a month, or 49.99 Euros for a whole year. The global iPlayer app includes some features that are not in the UK version, including the ability to stream shows over 3G as well as Wi-Fi, and download content to the iPad for offline viewing. Launches of iPlayer in the US, Canada and Australia are said to be imminent.