BBC & Pact strike terms of trade deal, ending long-running iPlayer dispute

The BBC and UK producer body Pact have agreed a far-reaching new terms of trade deal to enable the public broadcaster to offer programming for 12 months via its iPlayer streamer.

The agreement, which has been in the works for a year, means the BBC will receive an automatic 12 month iPlayer window on all content it commissions within its initial payment.

The agreement also sets out fixed rates for exclusive and non-exclusive extensions to the iPlayer window beyond 12 months, except where otherwise agreed as part of the funding arrangements for the production. At present, content is only guaranteed to be on the iPlayer for 30 days, unless agreed by separate negotiation.

The deal comes after long-running discussions between the sides that have stretched on for more than 18 months, and which at one point prompted Pact CEO John McVay to describe the BBC as employing “bullying and immoral” tactics in its negotiations, as revealed by TBI.

The BBC argued that promotion on iPlayer would result in a rise in rights values for producers down the line, while Pact claimed that for smaller and medium-sized producers, pre-selling secondary rights was an integral way to finance their shows. Previous deal proposals to extend the 30-day window would, Pact said, have reduced the value of those rights.

John McVay

The deal, which Pact has secured for its 550 members, means indies have “a clear framework across genres” the BBC said, offering “certainty of payments for use beyond 12 months.”

The UK pubcaster, whose income through the current pandemic is largely protected thanks to the licence fee, will pay the producer sooner to extend the licence period if the additional iPlayer windows are taken up beyond 12 months.

Tony Hall, BBC chief, said: “This is an important deal for the BBC, the industry, and the wider public. Not only have we reaffirmed our commitment to supporting independent UK producers, we have also ensured licence fee payers have access to the best content for at least a year on BBC iPlayer. Everybody wins.”

Sara Geater, All3Media COO and Pact chair, added: “The terms of trade are the lifeblood of the UK indie sector and I’m delighted we have reached a mutually beneficial agreement with the BBC which gives them the flexibility to increase exploitation of the programmes across the iPlayer as well as their linear services.

“This is obviously crucial at a time of increased competition from the global SVOD players. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the BBC team for their positive engagement.”

Bal Samra, BBC Group commercial director, said: “We are the largest supporter of the UK production sector, and so our priority was always to get a deal that worked for the broadest range of suppliers possible, regardless of size, location or type of content they make. This agreement does that, and means that at a time of rapid change a strong BBC can continue to invest in its home market and champion UK content.”

Tony Hall

John Mcvay, Pact Chief Executive, said: “The iPlayer has become even more important to viewers during this lockdown period, and it’s great that more compelling programmes will be available for longer – and that all UK companies will benefit from success”.

The terms, described by the two sides in full below, come into effect for entirely new commissions from Monday.

How the deal breaks down

  • The BBC will have a guaranteed 12 month initial iPlayer window on all commissions within the initial payment from independent producers, up from the existing 30 day window. This will come at no extra upfront charge to the BBC. Separate discussions will take place over children’s content; content commissioned by BBC Three for both linear and online publication will retain its current initial iPlayer window set out in the terms of trade.
  • The BBC will retain its five year standard licence, but where the BBC acquires additional iPlayer windows during the licence, the point at which the licence term expires and the BBC must pay to renew the licence will be bought forward on a sliding scale. For example, if the BBC wished to acquire two further exclusive iPlayer windows beyond its initial iPlayer window, the licence term would be a maximum of three years now before the BBC starts to pay a further sum to extend the licence.
  • For returning series, the BBC can continue to acquire VOD windows on a rolling two year basis for the life of the brand. For one-off series, the pre agreed framework will be in place up to year 3-7 depending on VOD usages, after which there’s an open negotiation for further windows. The agreement also sets out clarity for all parties around the BBC exercising additional VOD options.
  • The BBC will take a reduced backend, giving up 5% on each category of programme sales. This gives independent producers greater commercial returns. The BBC backend on UK sales during licence periods is now 20% (was 25%). The BBC backend on all other exploitation is now 10% ( was 15%).
  • The existing terms for television packages, including repeats, remains unchanged. Both parties have also agreed to look in more detail at iPlayer extensions for programmes commissioned in the regions and clearance costs for BBC Four.

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