IPTV should not be hindered by new prominence rules
An open letter today says Public Service Broadcasters need protected prominence in an IPTV world, when in fact consumers have a much wider choice of content.
The Public Service Broadcasters have an instrumental role in the forefront of the UK creative and digital sectors BBC iPlayer, for example, is a world class UK tech product and millions tune into watch fantastic, agenda setting content. UK broadcasting is in great health but is facing increasing pressure from online players as consumer habits evolve to a more on-demand content world from a greater variety of providers. In this environment it is important to make sure PSB content is accessible, with prominence protected in EPGs. Broadcasters need to recognise that the rules should not prevent new content players entering the market.
techUK do not support the PSB written letter calling for protected prominence to extend from the linear EPG to the IPTV and online world. We believe that this would overly restrict the ability of smart-TV and streaming services to innovate in this changing market and would make it harder for people to find new AV content.
A key part of the letter is that smart-TV manufacturers bury PSB content which is not the case. Press the ‘smart’ button on almost any connected TV and you will have a wealth of content, with iPlayer, All 4 and ITV Hub very much on the first page. Manufacturers are in business of helping consumers find and watch what they want to watch, so hugely valued platforms used by millions will never realistically be off the first page of the smart element of a TV.
Manufactures need the ability to customise and develop their own User Interfaces (UIs). TV sets are becoming more and more sophisticated so overly prescriptive rules will hinder the development of exciting new features like AI, metadata and voice control. These new features are increasingly part of the consumer proposition; companies must have the freedom to develop these features, which are often developed on a global and common standards platform basis.
The Ofcom ‘Media Nations’ report shows that linear broadcast television is still hugely popular. Young people are indeed consuming a smaller fraction of their content this way but get the content right and young people will watch TV – Love Island perhaps being the strongest example. If PSBs want to regain audience share the answer is to invest more in the types of media content people want – not supporting rules that prevent new content providers from entering the market. The PSBs have made great strides in this area (the BBC drama this year has been exceptional), so let’s see how things play out in the viewing marketplace.
Commercial incentives are already delivering and will continue to deliver PSB availability and prominence because these broadcasters are the most watched and dominant in the UK.
techUK and our members see no evidence that the current prominence regulatory framework is not fit for purpose. The Digital Economy Act required Ofcom to review the issue of prominence and EPGs and should be allowed to report without being pre-empted. techUK call on Government and Ofcom not to restrict device innovation and viewer search and discovery choice through unnecessary and overly prescriptive legislation.