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YouView boss: PSBs must look beyond streaming

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Richard Halton urges broadcasters to ‘figure out how they co-exist’ with Google and Amazon

YouView chief executive Richard Halton believes the commercial PSBs need to go further than a joint streaming service and link up with the likes of Amazon and Google if they are to grow.

A Guardian report over the weekend said that the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV, along with NBC Universal, were in talks over a new combined UK streaming service.

A previous attempt at this, dubbed Project Kangaroo, was mooted in 2007 but blocked by the competition regulator two years later. Last year, the BBC and ITV jointly launched BritBox in the US.

“I would certainly say a streaming service is something they should be looking at very hard, but this on its own is not the answer,” Halton told Broadcast.

He said that as well as collaborating on a streaming service, broadcasters must continue to innovative in linear TV using the likes of addressable advertising, and invest in growing technologies such as Amazon and Google voice control and connected home devices.

“The broadcasters need to continue to collaborate more widely on other platforms,” he added.

“They do that already with YouView and need to think about how they work with Amazon and Google. It’s not about taking them on and winning – it’s about figuring out how they co-exist.”

YouView viewers can use voice control to search and access programmes following a pilot with the Amazon Alexa device.

Halton said that as OTT viewing only represents around 10% of UK-wide viewing as a whole, a joint streaming service would be “necessary but not sufficient”.

Pauline Robson, managing director of media agency MediaCom said that while a PSB-led streaming service would not come as a shock to the industry, it would be a significant move.

“The plan to join forces is interesting and isn’t something we’ve seen on this scale before,” she said.

“It won’t be easy to take a group of competitors and create a great joint service out of it but if it works, it’s a hugely positive move for the media industry and certainly for viewers.”

She added that for any service to be successful it would need to create content to rival the likes of Netflix’s Stranger Things and HBO’s Westworld.

The BBC has ramped up its talks over PSB collaboration of late, with its deputy director general Anne Bulford recently calling for a “golden age of partnerships”.

The corporation published data in March that found 16-24s are now spending more time viewing Netflix than accessing the BBC’s portfolio of services.

The BBC, ITV and C4 all refused to comment on current plans for a joint streaming service.

Ofcom signals clear path for joint PSB streaming service

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Regulator says it needs to ‘create a competition environment’ for collaboration

Ofcom has signalled its support for PSBs to team up to “create scale from a platform” to protect their market position against an accelerated global competition.

Speaking at the Digital Television Group (DTG) Summit yesterday, Ofcom group director Steve Unger said the regulator needs to “create a competition environment” for collaboration.

The last attempt at a streaming service of this kind, Project Kangaroo, was blocked by the competition regulator in 2009, while BBC and ITV launched the US-only BritBox last year.

A Guardian report from last weekend said that the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV, along with NBC Universal, were in talks over a new combined UK streaming service, although none of the broadcasters chose to comment.

Steve Unger

Acknolwedging the need to protect PSBs and continue to support a thriving broadcast sector, Unger highlighted two current challenges from FAANG: a “fragmentation of choice” and scale, especially considering Sky is soon to be purchased by a big player.

“We recognise the importance of scale and are thinking about competition issues that will arise,” added Unger. “There has to be something done in this area. If we want to continue competing globally, then there needs to be a way of creating scale from a platform.”

Unger’s comments build on concerns raised by Ofcom’s report Public Service Broadcasting in the Digital Age, published in March, in which chief executive Sharon White said broadcasters’ future rested on “shared strength and close collaboration” to ensure they have the scale to thrive.


Unger highlighted prominence fears, stating that regulation could protect prominence at linear EPG level in the short-term but raising concerns about prominence guarantees as viewing shifts more to on-demand.

An Ofcom review into prominence is due later this year and the BBC’s distribution charter calls for it to be one of seven conditions that it wants other platforms to comply with when hosting its content.

Backing up Unger’s comments, BBC chief technology officer Matthew Postgate made several remarks calling for the need for greater broadcaster collaboration at the event, which took place in London’s Royal Society of Medicine.

In a speech entitled The Road to an IP (Internet Protocol) Future, Postgate called for greater collaboration “to secure the future for PSBs”.

“The creative world ecology can prosper, but only if we collectivise in new ways,” he said.

Appearing to signal the need for a joint streaming service, Postgate said he saw an opportunity to partner for scale across “standards, network engineering, devices, content production and even personal data infrastructures”.

He also said that collaboration would battle against the uplift in content prices instituted by the SVoD players’ entry into the market.

“The fact is that Apple has millions to play with and Netflix has been able to tap into a wider global market that we can’t,” he added. “That is putting money into content that is inflating prices.”

BBC deputy director general Anne Bulford recently called for a “golden age of partnerships” and earlier this week YouView chief executive Richard Halton went further and said the PSBs must look beyond streaming for collaboration.

Greater personalisation

Postgate added that the corporation had so far been “very successful” in building an active user base since it became mandatory to sign in to the BBC’s website services last year.

A BBC spokesman said it currently has a user base of around 15 million active sign-ins per month, eclipsing its initial targets.

Postgate reiterated a desire previously made to Broadcast for more sophisticated iPlayer personalisation.

He said the R&D team is looking to use machine learning to develop its programme recommendation algorithm.

“We could take the viewer down an ‘eight-episode Netflix route’ but that is not what we are trying to do,” he said. “We want to be able to show the viewer what would be a good watch in their area, or maybe look at something that you would not normally watch.”