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BBC Box Sets expansion plan must go out to consultation

Proposed changes to the BBC iPlayer must go to a Public Interest Test, according to Ofcom.

The BBC wants to increase the number of box sets available on the popular on-demand platform, which would be available for an extended period of time. The increase in box sets would be accompanied by enhancements to personalisation and an increase spend on marketing the service.

As a result, the BBC expects the proposals, if implemented, could increase the iPlayer's share of viewing.

But Ofcom has voiced concerns that there is a risk that the changes could come at the expenses of competitors including All4, ITV Hub, My 5 and Now TV, as a larger library of free of charge and commercial free programming could squeeze rivals and affect their ability to invest in new content and improvements to their platform.

Ofcom's assessment is at odds with the BBC Board, who earlier this year ruled the changes as not constituting a material change in the service and therefore requiring no further regulatory action.

As a result, the BBC has been ordered to conduct a Public Interest Test in the coming months to give stakeholders a chance to raise their concerns. The BBC will also need to publicly outline its proposals for scrutiny.

At the time of publication, the BBC hadn't yet commented on Ofcom's ruling, which won't necessarily result in the proposals being turned down.

The BBC has in the past year been testing the water by offering time-limited box sets, including Christmas specials, all post 2005 Doctor Who episodes, archive comedy and documentaries, which have proved popular with users.