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Market Impact Assessment: BBC iPlayer Consumer Survey

23 Gorffennaf 2010


Background to the MIA

The BBC is proposing to expand into the on-demand media space with the launch of four on-demand services, three of which would be provided over the internet and accessed using the proposed new BBC iPlayer software. As a convenient shorthand, we use the term ‘iPlayer’ to refer to all four of the proposed on-demand services throughout this report. The proposed services include seven day TV catch-up services over cable and the internet, live simulcast streaming of BBC TV content over the internet, and a non-DRM audio download service, limited to speech radio (although music may be offered where it does not infringe copyright). The internet services will be direct-to-consumer services – on demand, giving the consumer more freedom and control than that currently offered by linear TV and radio.

The Government’s White Paper on the BBC Charter Review determines that any new or considerably altered BBC service must be subject to a Public Value Test (PVT). The PVT is designed to determine whether the introduction of a new service is in the public interest by weighing-up the “public value” of the proposed changes against their likely impact on the market. The iPlayer is the first service to undergo this process.

An important component of the PVT is a Market Impact Assessment (MIA) and as part of this, Ofcom has commissioned Ipsos MORI to carry out an independent research programme to understand market implications of launching the iPlayer.

The overall objective of the research was to: “provide evidence to support the economic analysis to be conducted as part of the MIA”

More specifically, the research findings aimed to:

  • Assist with Ofcom’s identification of affected services – by establishing the range of services that could be positively or negatively affected by the launch of the BBC iPlayer
  • Explore the potential impact of iPlayer on current or future usage, in particular, whether consumers would reduce their usage or switch away from existing services (among existing users of these services)
  • Explore whether the launch of iPlayer would affect take-up and usage of existing services (among future potential users of these services)
  • Assess consumer reactions to a change in the price of existing services (among existing users of these services)

The above market complexities and the rapid pace of technological change in this market limit the value a consumer survey can add towards assisting with assessing the market impact of iPlayer. The vast majority of the general public struggle with the technology and terminology involved, with some of the iPlayer components being well outside their current range of experiences – and even imagination.

This makes it very difficult for them to respond meaningfully to hypothetical questions – such as the effect using the imagined service might have on their consumption patterns.

However, the results of this survey provide a framework and ‘consumer context’, while the indicative findings provide evidence on any conclusions drawn by Ofcom in their assessment of the market impact of the BBC iPlayer.

The full document is available below: