Summary:

BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) is claiming millions of its customers are potentially being excluded from watching BBC shows on demand because of “unneces…

A Sky+HD box
photo: DeclanTM

BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) is claiming millions of its customers are potentially being excluded from watching BBC shows on demand because of “unnecessarily restrictive” syndication rules that forces rivals to accept running the iPlayer on their own services.

The satellite broadcaster, which made the claim in a submission (PDF) in response to a BBC Trust consultation on online syndication of BBC content, is unhappy that the provisional conclusion is that on-demand BBC programmes should only be made available to rival operators through the iPlayer.

BSkyB, which has never had any BBC on-demand content on its service, argues that by not offering broadcasters the option of taking content on a simpler programme-by-programme basis the BBC Trust is “not acting in the public interest”.

Late last year the company launched Sky Anytime+, which has potentially opened 3.5m Sky households to a full on-demand service for the first time. BBC content has proved to be a massive drawcard for online TV viewers on Virgin Media’s service.

“The current BBC strategy could lead to millions of licence fee payers being denied access to the BBC’s on-demand content on their chosen platform,” Sky said in a 17-page submission to the BBC Trust’s consultation on the provisional conclusions.

The BBC Trust’s provisional conclusions state that the syndication policy would see standard versions of the iPlayer provided for other video-on-demand operators to tie into their own services, and that requests for “bespoke” versions be rejected “except in exceptional circumstances”.

BSkyB said its Sky Anytime+ service has not been deemed to be an “exceptional case”, but with an “amount of modification” a version of the iPlayer could be launched as part of the VoD service.

“The trust has at no time enquired of Sky whether such modifications are technically possible or practicable,” said Sky. “A hybrid approach [to syndication] would have considerable benefits over the trust’s proposed approach in extending reach [of BBC content], reducing cost and minimising market distortions.”

Last month BBC trustee Diane Coyle said the corporation needed to maintain control of BBC content in the on-demand world.

“We know that audiences get the most out of BBC programmes when they access them in a context that is consistent, familiar, distinctive and free to air, like the iPlayer,” she added. “Our provisional conclusions reflect the importance of delivering programmes in this trusted public space.”

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This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.

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