Ofcom publishes report on likely impact of BBC on-demand services
The embracing of broadband by the BBC in the form of a number of on-demand services has had the attention of Ofcom in the form of a Market Impact Assessment, which can be viewed online at www.ofcom.org.uk, a shorter summary can be read here.
The BBC proposals are formed of three services for broadband users in the UK:
- catch-up TV Allowing people to view BBC material that has been broadcast in the last 7 days, either over the ntl:Telewest cable TV network or the internet. A key point and potentially very attractive one, is that this service will allow back to back viewing of a whole TV series, with people able to store material for up to 13 weeks prior to viewing
- simulcast TV a system whereby people will be able to view shows currently being broadcast but over the internet
- audio downloads downloads of BBC radio programmes that people can listen to on their computer and portable music players. This would not include full-track commercial music, but be more in the form of podcasts
The assessment by Ofcom is to ensure that the new BBC service will not adversely affect existing or new commercial services. The new BBC Royal Charter that came into effect as of 1st January 2007 also means the BBC Trust will have to carry out a Public Value Assessment to consider the broader public value of any new BBC services to UK citizens and consumers.
Ofcom in its key findings has estimated that the proposed three video services would account for around 3 billion viewing hours (roughly 3% of total UK viewing time). A concern with the catch-up TV service is the impact of people watching complete TV series which may affect sales of DVD box-sets.
One issue Ofcom has taken a look at is the impact of average usage of the service on broadband usage limits, the estimate is that over the course of a month the expected usage levels would equate to 3GB a month, of course the actual amount would depend on how much you used the service. The estimate of the amount of money needed to support the service over broadband networks works out to between £399 million and £831 million, of course with price cuts and future technology deployments this cost may well come down. This new BBC service is not the first one to offer TV shows over your broadband connection, if any of the video over broadband services (due to amounts of bandwidth required, and the change from bursty usage which many networks are designed to cater for) become popular with the general public then the costs of coping with large spikes in traffic usage may force people to higher priced packages, or overall a small increase in the price of broadband.