ITV Studios (ITVS) managing director Julian Bellamy has said his company is close to striking a deal with the BBC over a new rights agreement for the latter’s iPlayer service.
The BBC is looking to offer shows for 12 months rather than 30 days via the OTT service to deal with changing viewing habits, but the public broadcaster has struggled to get new arrangements in place with rights holders, with discussions now ongoing for almost 12 months.
UK producer body Pact recently said that smaller companies “have a gun to their heads” over rights discussions but Bellamy said ITVS has an agreement in the works, but stepped back from providing further details.
“I completely understand where the BBC is coming from,” former Channel 4 controller Bellamy told delegates at the Royal Television Society event in Cambridge, with ITVS behind prodcos including Potato, Oxford Scientific Films, Mainstreet Pictures and Big Talk Productions.
“We’ve had productive conversations with the BBC over the last few weeks and months and we are getting to a place where we can see it can work,” he said.
“I am not going to get into what we have agreed but we are in a place in which we can see a way that this could work. And we are willing to give it a go.”
Dan McGolphin, iPlayer and programming controller, reiterated that the BBC had to secure the extended window to keep pace with changing viewing habits, adding that 40% of viewers had watched Killing Eve outside of the 30-day window.
“We need to recognise that many licence fee players are young and they’re just not watching in traditional ways, this model of just watching a few episodes doesn’t work.“
However Pact chief John McVay, who last month told TBI that the BBC was being ‘bullying and immoral’ in its negotiations with producers, said some smaller prodcos were now having to put their margins in to close financing, effectively seeing them working for free.
McGolphin said he did not recognise that situation, while All3Media CEO Jane Turton, who has also been in discussions with the broadcaster, said she understood that a “strong BBC” needs a “strong iPlayer.”
But she cautioned the broadcaster to ensure it properly remunerated producers for the extended window, adding: “The rub is that it has to be done on the right terms.”
While the ITVS deal now appears to be in place, discussions with other rights holders continue, TBI understands. Earlier this year Pact struck a terms of trade deal with Channel 4 that will see the broadcaster hand over global secondary rights revenue in return for multi-platform rights, something Bellamy described as “very enlightened”.