The BBC has received qualified provisional approval for its plans to extend the scope of the BBC iPlayer. The plans involve moving from a catch-up service, where programmes are available for 30 days after broadcast, to one where programmes are available for 12 months as standard, with some accessible for longer.
The communications regulator has provided its provisional conclusions, subject to a further consultation, and expects to publish its final determination by August 2019.
Meanwhile, Ofcom says that the BBC may proceed with its proposal, subject to conditions and guidance. So further consultation appears to be purely procedural.
Ofcom has carried out a competition assessment to consider the public value and potential impact on other services.
The provisional conclusion reached by Ofcom is that the public value of the proposed changes to BBC iPlayer justifies the adverse impact on fair and effective competition.
However, Ofcom says it remains concerned about the competitive challenges created, particularly for the online video services of other public service broadcasters, as well as the proposed BritBox joint venture between the BBC and ITV.
Ofcom says its provisional conclusion does not mean the BBC is able to extend and develop BBC iPlayer free from further regulatory control. It is proposing to impose conditions on the BBC to ensure it regularly reviews and reports on the way in which the new BBC iPlayer will contribute to delivery of its mission and public purposes.
The documents published by Ofcom include research conducted to investigate the possible impact of extending the BBC iPlayer and a number of very critical submissions by other industry stakeholders and competing broadcasters.
Notably, ITV indicated that it was still willing to invest in BritBox alongside the BBC, as long as it could conclude a formal agreement before the expansion of BBC iPlayer is agreed.