Pact, the UK trade association for producers in film, television and interactive media, has finalised changes to their existing agreements with the BBC, enabling extended windows to allow viewers to catch up on previously broadcast programmes using video-on-demand services.

The new media rights deal was finalised just within the deadline of 31 May set by the UK communications regulator Ofcom.

The main changes to the existing Terms of Trade agreement will provide extended opportunities to view programmes within a specific time window after their initial transmission.

Viewers will be able to use video-on-demand or download services to catch up on any episodes of a series that they have missed providing that the series is still being transmitted. They will also be able to download and store programmes locally for later viewing. Once accessed, they will have seven days to view them.

This is an extension of the terms used for the trial of the BBC integrated media player, in which programmes were only available for viewing for seven days after they were first transmitted.

Some trial users complained that this was too restrictive, particularly since the same programmes could already be stored and viewed indefinitely using a personal video recorder under fair use provisions for home video recordings.

The BBC described the amendments as “a great deal for both the independent production sector and the licence fee payer.”

“This deal has improved what was a fairly narrow public service new media window to view programmes,” said Jana Bennett, director of television at the BBC. “It creates the possibility — subject to the necessary approvals — for audiences to catch up with their favourite BBC programmes at their convenience.”

Commercial video-on-demand rights will be available to exploit in the UK for the first time. Independent production companies will also have greater freedom to exploit other new media rights and enjoy an improved share of revenue from commercial exploitation in the UK.

John McVay, Chief Executive of Pact, said: “This is not only a good deal for the BBC and indies, it is a good deal for the whole market.”

Certain BBC programmes are already available for catch-up viewing on some video-on-demand platforms, and this is likely to be a key component of future broadband video services.

The BBC plans to provide its own broadband download service, subject to a market impact assessment and public value test.

Other broadcasters failed to agree terms with Pact for new media rights by the deadline set by Ofcom. Channel 4 has been holding out for longer windows for replays and exclusive exploitation.

Pact is holding a RightsLab forum in London at the end of June to provide television programme producers and distributors with the opportunity to meet buyers and business partners from a range of new and traditional digital platforms.