BBC has new competitors, warns iPlayer boss Daniel Danker

Ian Richardson Ian Richardson starred in the role that Kevin Spacey has reprised for House of Cards

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The iPlayer boss has issued a warning to the BBC about its new, risk-taking competitors.

Daniel Danker, the manager for on-demand and iPlayer, said that the BBC's fiercest and most nimble competitors are no longer likely to be Sky, Channel 4 and ITV.

'I think we are measuring ourselves against the wrong competitors, because actually the companies that are most likely to be disruptive in what we do are Google through YouTube, Amazon through LoveFilm and Netflix,' he told Ariel in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

All of the companies recognise the opportunity in streaming television series and films and of producing original content to be shown exclusively online.

His comments follow the announcement that the BBC Trust has approved a 12-month trial that will see selected BBC television shows broadcast online ahead of their scheduled tv transmission. The trial will see up to 40 hours of programming across a range of genres initially available on the iPlayer.

YouTube reaches 40%

Danker backed up his warning with the latest data from iPlayer. Today, iPlayer reaches about 25% of the UK every month, he said, but YouTube reaches about 40%.

'Now, people spend more time with us and maybe it's not quite dancing squirrels and skateboarding guinea pigs, but ultimately what they are onto with YouTube could very well disrupt us.'

He predicted that companies such as Google, mostly American, will start to make their own original content.

American giant Netflix is leading the way by releasing its drama House of Cards online to its subscribers. It took a gamble by releasing the entire series, a remake of a BBC political drama from 1990, immediately.

Danker, an Israeli-born American who spent 11 years at Microsoft, said the series is 'pretty good' and has attracted big names, including Kevin Spacey. He called Netflix 'innovative and nimble'.

'Scary' companies

What if the BBC released The Killing online all at once?, he asked hypothetically. 'Well, that's what our competitors are doing. That's not what ITV and Channel 4 are doing.

'That's what big, multinational companies are doing, mostly American companies, which is also scary. It doesn't say great things about UK-originated content,' he argued.

The iPlayer manager said that in YouTube's Soho offices, artists and content creators are being asked to 'professionalise their content' at specially built studios. He predicted that it won't be 'skateboarding chimpanzees' for much longer, but high-quality content.

'It's really exciting - competition is good, it's good for the consumer, but [the BBC] must remain vigilant and we must remain nimble and agile and innovative.'

So far, the BBC's online-only content has been limited to comedy pilots and one-off shows such as the Doctor Who web series Pond Life.

A spokesperson for the BBC confirmed that 'we will build on this in 2013 and make more programming exclusively available to our audiences via BBC iPlayer'.

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