The BBC has begun to enforce rules under its new syndication policy that prevents platforms from creating their own versions of the BBC iPlayer. This week Virgin Media was forced to remove direct access to BBC content on its new TiVo service, replacing it with the new BBC-endorsed Flash-based version.
A new contract signed between the cableco and the BBC means that instead of being able to access BBC content through its backwards EPG, Virgin TiVo users must instead go through the Apps and Games area. Alternatively, Virgin customers can continue to press the Red Button from a BBC channel, as is the case with boxes running the Liberate/TV Navigator middleware that remains unaffected by the changes.
Although the BBC syndication policy is yet to be officially approved by the BBC Trust, the BBC told Broadband TV News that it was working within the guidelines of the draft policy.
Virgin’s own figures show that 80% of traffic for the iPlayer is currently running through its own servers rather than those of the BBC. Although the proportion could fall now that the iPlayer has been separated from the rest of Virgin’s on demand offer – a move against the cableco’s wishes – it is still early days for viewer usage patterns to emerge. Broadband TV News understands that the link between the iPlayer and TiVo may be restored later in the year.
A positive for Virgin is that the new format will allow an increase in the amount of programmes available that will increase from around 300 to 700 hours on average. This brings Virgin into line with the iPlayer on connected TV devices.