BBC prepares for life beyond channels

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Move is latest attempt to deal with changes in the way people consume television.

The BBC is preparing a complete revamp of its iPlayer streaming service in the face of competition from Netflix, as it prepares for a life beyond traditional television channels.

The move is the latest attempt by the corporation to deal with changes in the way that people consume television and maintain its relevance to younger audiences.

The BBC expects iPlayer to become the main way people view its programmes. Shows will be made available by default for up to a year, rather than the previous 30-day limit.

Although traditional television channels still account for the vast proportion of British TV viewing, and the broadcaster intends to focus on those channels and on-demand for the foreseeable future, the transition to streaming risks leaving the BBC behind.

The iPlayer relaunch will be essential as the BBC attempts to compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace, as younger viewers are attracted by rivals such as Netflix. The move also risks angering ITV by undermining the joint BritBox venture, which is due to launch this autumn priced £5.99 a month and is being pitched as a cheaper additional streaming service for consumers who already subscribe to Netflix.

Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s director of content, said: “iPlayer will become the heart of everything we do; the gateway to all our programmes – a ‘total TV’ experience, which will bring everything you want from BBC television into one place for the first time.”

Despite iPlayer pioneering UK streaming when it launched in 2007, its market share has plummeted in the face of new arrivals, while being hamstrung by regulatory constraints – such as only being able to show programmes for 30 days after broadcast. In August, Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, gave the BBC the go-ahead to increase the amount of time that content is available on iPlayer.

Previous changes to established BBC streaming products have not gone smoothly. The broadcaster was criticised for “ignoring its audience” over the decision to turn off its iPlayer radio app and replace it with the BBC Sounds app in an attempt to attract younger listeners.

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