FremantleMedia CEO Tony Cohen, speaking at an event held by the Westminster Media Forum, voiced his concerns over a couple of aspects of the UK government’s recently-released Digital Britain report.
Chief among the issues he raised was the report’s support for a partnership or joint venture between Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide, which could reshape Channel 4′s business remit from a publishing broadcaster to that of a rights owner. ‘Encouraging Four to be a rights owner represents a serious threat to the basis for one of Britain’s great export successes – the UK production sector,’ said Cohen.
He also took aim at the report’s suggestion that BBC Worldwide should have greater commercial freedom and, in the words of the report, ‘develop towards becoming a powerful, global British Rights Company.’
‘Program rights are already efficiently exploited by a ferociously competitive private distribution sector,’ said Cohen, maintaining that if BBCWW aims to become more commercially free, then it should lose its first-look deal with the BBC and face the same competition that other companies in the market face when it comes to product.
Cohen did voice support for other elements of the report, including its support for a low-cost, pay-per-view business model for on-demand, online video.
‘Micropayments have often been attacked as an online business model because of the familiarity of internet users with ‘free content.’ FremantleMedia’s own research on its viewer panel however, indicates that there is a willingness to pay small amounts from as little as 5p to as high as £2,’ offered Cohen. He also said that a feasibility study conducted by FremantleMedia and other companies examining the establishment of a one-click service for viewers should be ready this fall.