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BBC iPlayer, James Murdoch & The Online TV Marketplace

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Erik Huggers Erik Huggers | 15:55 UK time, Friday, 25 April 2008

PDF of James Murdoch lectureJames Murdoch clearly thinks that the isn't a bad product at all, according to comments that he made at a Q&A session after the UK Marketing Society's annual lecture [pdf of full speech via MediaGuardian].

While I'm delighted by this, there are a couple of points that he makes about the iPlayer's impact on competition which deserve comment.

First and foremost, his claim that iPlayer is "squashing" a lot of competitors: when the BBC's on demand proposal (of which iPlayer was a key part) was submitted to the BBC Trust, it went through a rigourous approval process.

This included, crucially, a market impact assessment from Ofcom, and the Trust imposed a number of conditions on the proposal to take account of market impact issues. Not only this, but BSkyB actually contributed to both the market impact assessment and the consultation on the Trust's provisional conclusions.

Additionally, his claim that iPlayer "crowds out competition" contrasts with comments like those made by Sarah Rose (head of video-on demand and channel development at Channel 4) back in March that

The launch of the BBC's iPlayer has undoubtedly boosted our service.

We believe that BBC iPlayer has already played, and will continue to play, a significant role in popularising TV viewing online to the benefit of all - including licence fee payers, other broadcasters and content producers.

Eric Huggers is Group Controller, BBC Future Media & Technology


  • Comment number 1.

    I would have thought that the quality of iplayer would spur the other catch-up tv venders to do a better job. 4OD and ITV's offering pale in comparison to iplayer, which are further shamed by the fact that you don't even need to be a computer to watch it.

  • Comment number 2.

    A Murdoch criticising the BBC?!

  • Comment number 3.

    Hopefully this is not the start of a campaign that goes the same way as BBC Jam.
    See http://jimhenderson.wordpress.com/2008/04/26/will-the-bbc-iplayer-go-the-same-way-as-bbc-jam/

  • Comment number 4.

    Someone needs to tell "James" that he needs to suck it up and start competing.

    The BBC should not be held back from providing value for licence payers just to stop comerical services from looking inadequate.

  • Comment number 5.

    My only real gripe with all this is that the BBC has adopted terms such as "iplayer", "pod cast" and so on which are closely aligned to the names used by Apple in their Ipod .
    This suggests some association with them and I'm sure is detrimental to other manufacturers who make MP3 players and other such products.
    I'm sure Apple rub their hands with glee with this free publicity - surely against the beebs charter ?

  • Comment number 6.

    The iplayer isnt open to us Brit who live abroad. So why cant the BBC give us a choice to pay for the service.

  • Comment number 7.

    The use of the name iPlayer is simple interactive media marketing speak, most commercial organisations use something similar.

    And using it in this case, gives everyone a head start in knowing kind of what it is without any grand explanation required.

    The fact that the "i" prefix has become so closely associated with Apple is good marketing on their part, as I don't believe they were the first to use it. It has, in fact, also been used by Google and various other software vendors over the years.

    Conversely, a "Podcast" is no longer a term that is tied to Apple's devices. It has been used as a genericised name for pre-recorded and downloadable media (such as radio shows) for several years now. It works as a generic name because (again) everyone knows what it is without explanation.

    Same as Sellotape, Hoover, Rawlplug, Velcro etc.

    It is good for the BBC to use generic terms rather than invent its own.

  • Comment number 8.

    If James Murdoch wants to live in the USA why doesn't he just go home?

    I had a colleague who worked for Sky during the .com boom, and got sacked for "paying too much" for the Sportal site.

    James Murdoch spent £940 million (9.8% of BSkyB's total value) on buying a share of ITV, which has plummeted in price.

    ANYONE else in BSkyB would have been sacked for throwing away so much of the company's cash. Why not this James bloke...

    BSkyB, the home of nepotism.

    All the attacking the iPlayer nonsense is to just divert attention away from his failings.

    BSkyB could do an iPlayer, but they don't actually have any UK content, do they?

  • Comment number 9.

    They do have occasional homespun content, the recent Pratchett adaptations spring to mind ... but that's about it.

    I imagine Sky can't operate an iPlayer type system unless they are prepared to stump up for additional (internet streaming) rights to the studios that make their shows. When (unlike the BBC) the vast majority of your output is actually owned by someone else, that quickly becomes expensive.

    There is the added problem that it would have to be secure and subscription or password protected, since SkyOne is a subscription channel and not available anywhere free to air. They couldn't just make it available on the web for nothing because then they would stop selling dishes.

    They do, however, already offer a movie download service for Sky Movies subscribers.


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