Assessing the impact of the BBC iPlayer catch-up TV service

Project experience | Strategy

The problem

The BBC's proposed catch-up TV service – iPlayer – was proving controversial; some broadband ISPs were concerned about its impact on their network. As a public body, the BBC had to satisfy both regulators and its own governing body that iPlayer wouldn't have a detrimental effect on the market. That meant subjecting the iPlayer service to the so-called Public Value Test. As part of this, the BBC asked Analysys Mason to assess the iPlayer's potential impact on the market, and specifically ISPs' costs.

The solution

We began by creating a series of scenarios that described how the market for both catch-up TV and broadband Internet access might develop in the UK. From these, we developed a number of growth projections for the expansion of video services and then we created growth projections for the iPlayer service.

Next, we created an economic model that considered how ISPs could use different broadband products to deliver rich media content to consumers. We then used that model to assess the impact of rich media content on ISPs' distribution costs, before estimating both the volume and cost impact of iPlayer on the different types of ISP.

Finally, bringing together these separate impact analyses we developed a detailed projection of the overall impact of iPlayer on the UK broadband market.

The result

Our findings played an important role in iPlayer gaining approval from the BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust, in April 2007, and it went live on 25 December 2007. Just as importantly, the information and independent analysis delivered by our consulting team enabled the BBC to quickly and effectively address questions raised by the ISP community. Today, iPlayer is considered one of the world's leading broadcaster catch-up TV services. It is the UK's second-largest Internet video service (behind YouTube), serving over 130 million requests per month to over 1.5 million users; a remarkable achievement by any standards and one that was in part made possible by Analysys Mason.

The team

Our media and regulatory teams were at the heart of this project. Their unique combination of skills enabled them to analyse and understand the UK's converging rich media market.

Our media team works with rights owners, broadcasters, content distributors (traditional and new media) and financial institutions undertaking advisory work including valuation, due diligence, proposition development, regulatory advice and technical design.

Our regulatory team is one of the world's leading economic analysis teams, advising operators and regulators on the full scope of market, economic and technical advisory work relevant to operators, ISPs, regulators and financial institutions.

This combination of experience, rigour, independence and understanding was vital in making the iPlayer project a success, and is much in demand by both media and broadband clients today.

Some of the UK's largest broadband providers wanted BBC's iPlayer stopped before it even launched, claiming it would take up bandwidth and destroy their profits. Analysys Mason helped qualify the risks and benefits, smoothing the way for one of the BBC's biggest successes in recent years.

Key fact 1

We typically undertake between 40 and 60 regulatory projects every year in 25 to 30 countries.

Key fact 2

We have 26 consultants in our regulation and policy team, as well as approximately 40 consultants from our other practices that are also heavily involved in our regulatory work.

Key fact 3

During the past eight years, we have supported 65 operators in regulatory lobbying, as expert witnesses, preparing material for submission to regulatory and legal processes and helping them to comment efficiently on consultations that have an impact on their business.