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BBC boss: We risk irrelevance unless we fit around viewers’ lives

The director-general will say audiences ‘need to get value for their £154.50’ licence fee.

BBC director-general Tony Hall (Yui Mok/PA)
BBC director-general Tony Hall (Yui Mok/PA)

The BBC’s digital services will be “the only ones some of our audiences use” in as little as five years, its director-general will warn.

Viewers are increasingly moving away from linear channels to digital services such as iPlayer and Netflix.

As a result, the BBC “risks irrelevance” unless it offers a more personal service, Lord Hall will say in a speech on the future of TV.

BBC iPlayer should be at the heart of the corporation’s future, he will tell Thursday’s Media And Telecoms conference.

The director-general will say audiences “need to get value for their £154.50” licence fee.

“Increasingly, they expect to get that value through iPlayer, through BBC Sounds, through News Online,” he will say.

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The logo on BBC’s Broadcasting House (Peter Summers/PA)

With audiences moving away from linear television to streaming and catch-up services, he will add: “It might be five years away, it might be 10, but soon our digital services will be the only ones some of our audiences use.”

In 2016 a loophole that allowed viewers to catch up on shows on BBC iPlayer without paying the licence fee was closed.

Lord Hall will say there must be “a new contract” between the BBC and the public, with a service “that is more personal”.

“Not long ago, traditional broadcasters and media organisations could each do our thing and expect audiences to make time to come to us. Now we must fit around their lives. Deliver value directly to them. Or we all risk irrelevance,” he will say.

The BBC recently announced plans for a streaming service, BritBox, with ITV, to counter competition from Netflix.

But Lord Hall will say that “iPlayer lies at the heart of the BBC’s strategy to create the TV of tomorrow”, with audiences wanting and expecting “more than just catch-up”.

Shows currently remain on iPlayer for around 30 days but the BBC wants that extended for at least a year.

BritBox is designed as “a long-term home” for many shows after they are no longer available on BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub.

Lord Hall said he wants to see “more boxsets, more titles for longer, programmes available for at least 12 months after they’re first shown, more personalisation, more live programming and more content from the archive” on iPlayer.

He will argue that the BBC is a place for “British creativity – unique amongst today’s vast array of global content” and will stand out “in an algorithm-driven world”.

Lord Hall will be speaking at the Media And Telecoms 2019 & Beyond Conference, taking place in London.

PA

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