BBC iPlayer will be available to Sky customers through their existing equipment within the year, the BBC and BSkyB announced today.
The service will allow Sky customers to catch up with recent BBC TV programmes on demand, at no extra charge. Radio programmes will not initially be available.
ITV Player is also to join Anytime+, Sky’s catch-up service. The new dedicated ITV section launches tomorrow, although to begin with it will carry archive programming only, with regular catch-up programmes to be added later in the year. Anytime+ already carries some BBC archive programmes.
It had previously been speculated that the BBC and Sky had been unable to agree on the look and format of iPlayer on Sky, with Sky preferring to concentrate on its own Anytime+ service, and the BBC concerned about retaining iPlayer’s distinctive branding.
Such concerns have now been resolved, with technical improvements to Anytime+ set to create an iPlayer “experience” sufficiently close to other, existing versions of the service.
Another sticking point has been that Anytime+ is only available to customers whose broadband connection, as well as their digital TV service, is provided by Sky. The satellite broadcaster’s plan to relax this condition and make Anytime+ available to all Sky customers was “an important development in helping to bring BBC iPlayer to around 5 million new homes in 2012 [via Sky]”, a BBC spokesman said. “A core BBC value is to reach all audiences on a universal basis,” he added.
Although this resolution was perhaps inevitable at some point, it still comes as a blow to Sky’s competitors: until now, the provision of iPlayer on Virgin, BT Vision, and internet-enabled TVs and digiboxes on Freesat and Freeview was a major selling point for those services.
BBC director-general Mark Thompson said: “Having the BBC and Sky work together to further build on the BBC iPlayer success story can only be fantastic news for audiences. Making BBC iPlayer available on all platforms is key to our commitment to universal access and this agreement takes us one step further towards that goal. I’m delighted to take this first step on a story of innovation for both organisations.”
Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch added: “Sky Anytime+ will go from strength to strength in 2012 and we are delighted that the addition of BBC iPlayer will allow Sky customers to enjoy the best of the BBC whenever they want.”
BBC iPlayer is also already available via Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Wii consoles, on various internet-ready TVs, and mobile and tablet devices.