Tech is good for broadcast

In this blog we set out why the broadcasters were wrong to single out tech

Ofcom recently announced its Small Screen: Big Debate consultation that could radically change how the Audio Video Media industry is regulated in the coming years.

The PSBs in their pre-consultation input make some claims that we believe should be rebutted immediately. They infer that over half of households subscribing to an SVoD service has a significant impact on discovery and access to PSB content on smart TVs and similar devices, but in fact this is consumers choosing to pay for top quality programming. Consumers therefore expect such content to be easily accessible and presented in a prominent position on their SmartTV’s User Interfaces. This influx of new high quality content has delivered massive benefits to consumers and the PSBs should welcome new challengers as it should force them to raise their own game. The SVODs are investing more of their production capacity in the UK which is also great news for UK production and acting talent.

On the issue of prominence it must be noted that all the PSB catch up players are currently very easy to find in online user interfaces. It would make little sense for manufacturers and platform operators to make key PSB content difficult to find as we know that consumers want access to it.

Consumers do not struggle to find PSB catchup players on Smart-TVs or on streaming sticks, and if anything the PSBs need to do more to simplify and make it easier for manufacturers to carry their services.

The existing testing, carriage and certification processes that enable TVs to contain PSB catch up players needs to become less onerous and complicated. Learning from the new players can help PSBs become more efficient and effective and we encourage them to do so. Overbearing and overly restrictive mandating of prominence in the online environment will only stagnate the sector and harm consumers. TechUK’s members recognise that consumers expect equitable access to all the content they desire and are committed to providing UIs that enable such a paradigm.

The PSBs call on Ofcom to make some unworkable new regulatory rules. On the one hand they suggest a more open, must offer-must carry, core horizontal market approach, the “Regulated PSB offer”, but then negate all the benefits of such an approach by tying it up in all the existing carriage processes and frameworks that are currently failing the market. They suggest that any implementation of this regulatory code would be subject to further commercial impact assessment of the PSB, including subjective interpretations of their distribution policies and additional commercial considerations. The fact PSBs in the UK do not strictly follow international broadcasting standards is a further issue for techUKs members.

Overall if the PSBs are concerned about losing audience share to platforms they should primarily focus on content related issues. Where people, especially young people, are increasingly adopting SVoD services and consuming media in different ways the PSBs should examine why this is, and not blame the rules or call for more regulations on Smart-TV or other platforms. The old industry message ‘content is king’ could not be truer and if the PSBs want to succeed they should refresh and update their content offerings.