The BBC is giving up on its current iPlayer strategy—which is predominantly used as a catchup TV service—with plans to offer entire seasons of shows before they air on regular telly channels as it attempts to lure eyeballs away from the likes of binge-watch rival Netflix.
BBC director general Tony Hall said on Wednesday that the corporation wanted to “reinvent public broadcasting for a new generation” of viewers—many of whom are now glued to mobile devices. He added that it would allow the BBC to compete with Netflix and Amazon.
By 2020, Hall said that he hoped to see iPlayer fans quadruple the amount of hours they spend watching the service. He also wants to see iPlayer users double from a current sofa-squishing audience of 10 million.
The iPlayer is now entering its tenth year, after it tentatively kicked into life in July 2007 when it was criticised for only being initially made available in beta on Windows XP and Internet Explorer (version 6 or later, if you’re wondering). By late 2008, the iPlayer finally arrived as a desktop version on Mac and Linux computers. Come 2009, and the iPlayer underwent another significant reboot—this time with the BBC ditching its clunky peer-to-peer technology and introducing the 800Kbps H.264 video format. Since then, it has gone through a number of other iterations, including the decision to dump Flash in favour of HTML5.
But the latest plans represent a fundamental change of policy for the BBC: it wants to abandon—in some instances, at least—exclusively airing shows on its TV channels before pushing them out to its on-demand service.
Hall said: “In a world of near-limitless choice, I want people to carry on choosing us.” It’s a clear signal that the BBC is at risk of losing more eyeballs to the online world if it fails to compete with the likes of Netflix.
At the start of this year, the BBC entered into its new Royal Charter. It was recently buoyed by viewing figures from people aged 16-34, more of whom tuned in to watch the epic nature series Planet Earth II, rather than ITV’s ailing X Factor.
Listing image by Sherlock Holmes, BBC