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The regulation of video-on-demand: consumer views on what makes audiovisual services 'TV-like': a qualitative research report

18 Rhagfyr 2009

Executive summary

Research background and objectives

This research was carried out in anticipation of the implementation of the European Audiovisual Media Services Directive ("AVMS Directive") .

From 19 December 2009 (the date of implementation), regulation will be extended to certain types of on-demand audiovisual services which are "television-like" in that they share the same key characteristics as traditional television services and compete for the same audiences. The new regulations that implement the requirements of the AVMS Directive into UK law ("the Regulations") set out a series of legal criteria to define whether a service is an On-Demand Programme Service (as defined in section 368A (1) of the Communications Act 2003 (as amended) ('the Act') and therefore subject to the new regime.

One of the criteria included in the new section 368A(1)(a) of the Act is that the principal purpose of the service is "the provision of programmes the form and content of which are comparable to the form and content of programmes normally included in television programme services". In other words, that the service is "television-like". This latter phrase is used in one of the recitals to the AVMS Directive which says that "it is a characteristic of on-demand audiovisual services that they compete for the same audience as television broadcasts, and the nature and the means of access to the service would lead the user reasonably to expect regulatory protection within the scope of this Directive" .

In light of the use of the phrase "TV-like" in the AVMS Directive, Ofcom commissioned and carried out this qualitative research study in order to gain an understanding of what consumers consider to be "TV-like" material and what their expectations are in terms of the key characteristics of such material.

In this research study participants were shown short clips from a wide range of video-on-demand (VOD) services, including some services that are likely to be on-demand services and therefore subject to regulation, and others that either will not be, or are unlikely to be in this category. This was in order to provide a spectrum to help participants articulate their views on what makes something "TV-like". "VOD" is used throughout this report in the generic sense described above.