All Sections

When does a BBC iPlayer account become mandatory?

The BBC has announced anyone who uses the iPlayer catch-up service will need to sign up for an email account – or be excluded.

The general public will have to sign up for an account to stream TV, radio and use BBC apps from early 2017 as part of a plan to reinvent public service broadcasting by using data.

The BBC says the move will help make it ‘better informed to make decisions around future programming for everyone’, mirroring the techniques used by Netflix and other popular streaming services.

TV Licensing will have access to the details submitted by anyone who signs up for iPlayer. The BBC says it will never use them for enforcement purposes, but admitted this could may well change in the future.

Making it easier to serve personalised content to viewers is the plan, but not everyone is convinced – including BBC media correspondent David Sillito: “Coming less than a month after the extension of the licence fee to the iPlayer, it’s hard not to see this as just a way of encouraging people to pay up.”

He added: “The inclusion of a postcode as part of the new compulsory sign-up information certainly suggests it could be a way of alerting TV licensing to homes that currently don’t have a licence but are watching the iPlayer.”

Signing up does at least provide a couple of initial benefits, including a favourites section and the ability to pause a programme and for it to resume exactly where you left it later on.

“I want everyone to get the very best from the BBC.” said Tony Hall, BBC Director-General. “By learning about what you want and like, we can take you to more of the great programmes you love, stories you might be interested in and content you might otherwise never have discovered.”  

“This is a real transformation – reinventing public service broadcasting for the digital age. Millions of people are already benefitting from this more personalised BBC, and by rolling it out for everyone no one will be left behind,” he added. 

The BBC says it will never sell on the information to third-party companies and that any user can delete their iPlayer account at any time. 

The moves follows on from a recent government-enforced change, which requires anyone who watches iPlayer to own television licence as of the 1st of September, 2016. Previously a licence was only needed if iPlayer was used to stream live television.

More than seven million members of the British public have signed up so far and have received more than 70million ‘personalised programme recommendations’, according to BBC figures. It has also sent 22 million emails.

Though this seems like a way to enforce the government’s iPlayer rule change and for the Beeb to reach more email addresses, it still has one major gap; those who watch other on-demand services such as ITV Player or Netflix can get away without a TV licence.

A TV licence costs £145.50 a year. Alternatively, £37 can be paid quarterly or pay just over £12 monthly after an initial period of paying £24 for six months.