The BBC is poised to set out plans for a massive reinvention of iPlayer, the pioneering streaming service it launched in the same year as Netflix went live, and punch back in the fight for British talent.
At an event in London on Monday evening, director general Tony Hall and content chief Charlotte Moore will set out the BBC’s vision to turn iPlayer into a “total TV” service, serving personalized content to audiences, including live events, box-sets, and all of the broadcaster’s television stations.
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They will say that the BBC is now removing the burdens of regulation after it got the greenlight to extend iPlayer’s catch-up window for new shows from 30 days to 12 months. This longer viewing window will be at the heart of the revamp, which the BBC says will be the biggest since iPlayer launched in 2007.
The BBC is pitching the new look as a direct response to the invasion of Netflix, Amazon, Apple and other U.S. media giants, which Hall referred to as a “second wave of disruption” during a speech last month. It will play up iPlayer as a human-curated platform, rather than being moderated by machines.
During the event on Monday, the BBC will also tackle, head-on, the trend for U.S. streamers scooping up British talent on huge overall deals, like Peter Morgan signing up with Netflix last week. Hall and Moore will say that the broadcaster can’t compete with the tens of millions of dollars being thrown at creative talent, but it can offer creative freedom, free from focus groups and algorithms, and a bigger shop window on TV and audio.
At the event, Hall will say: “iPlayer is a great service. But it can and will be even better. The BBC’s combination of backing great and different ideas, alongside a complete reinvention of iPlayer, will mean a unique service that will be of huge benefit to the public. It will be a new front door for British creativity.”
Moore will add: “iPlayer will become the heart of everything we do; the gateway to all our programs – a ‘total TV’ experience which will bring everything you want from BBC television into one place for the first time.
“There’s something else that makes our vision for iPlayer unique and special. In fact it’s the vital thing. It’s curated. We’re talking about a cutting edge tech platform, run by humans. Because in a world of so much content and choice, a dynamic curated offering will become more and more important to people and will set the BBC apart.”
According to the BBC, iPlayer had a record seven days in the final week of September, racking up 90M program requests. And crucially for the BBC, which is competing with young viewers with Netflix and YouTube, the number of people under-35 iPlayer is reaching has gone up by more than a third in the past year.