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Broadcasters must team up to compete with Netflix

Posted by BECTU Communications on 29 November 2018

Ofcom chief executive Sharon White’s call for UK broadcasters to come together and consider launching their own rival to Netflix has to be welcomed.

We all know that viewing habits have dramatically changed over the last few years. The power of Netflix, initially as an aggregated content provider and now as a commissioner, has shaken the television industry. Other subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) services such as, Amazon and Apple are hot on its heels, and it’s essential that our public service broadcasters (PSB) keep pace.

Viewing figures continue to show young people moving to streaming content and the competitive cycle is ramping up as producers and rights holders, such as Roald Dahl’s estate, strike deals with Netflix and the others.

The broadcasters are acutely aware of the challenge. Just this week C4 director of programming Ian Katz told an audience that a new slate of programming was being readied to deal with the challenges posed by SVoDs.

That is why White’s suggestion for the PSBs, who include the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV coming together must be explored further.

UK TV production is envied across the world, and rightly so. Our industry has created shows as varied as Bake-off, Fleabag, Bodyguard and Love Island – with many of these creations exported internationally. And these new platforms offer glittering opportunities for producers looking to take their work to the largest possible audience.

The current solution of all the different PSB online services, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and My5, being available in one app is a step forward, but it is clunky and quickly needs refining. Viewers enjoy being able to use one log-in to access a huge variety of content, and they have quickly come to expect this. It’s this that the PSB broadcasters should be seeking to offer,rather than an app which houses different services each requiring  separate log-ins.

While White is right to point out that the BBC has the ability to lead the way in developing this approach further, it shouldn’t be a case of all eyes on the BBC to make this happen. C4, ITV and C5 also have to be willing to step up to the plate and play their part in transforming UK TV, offering a genuine rival to Netflix and safeguarding terrestrial broadcasting for the future. 

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