In a statement today, the BBC's governing body provisionally concluded that on-demand BBC shows should only be offered to TV platform operators through the iPlayer catch-up service. That would mean operators such as Sky and Virgin Media would be unable to syndicate BBC shows within their own branded catch-up platforms.
The Trust also said that iPlayer must be offered in "standard formats that the great majority of other TV operators can readily adopt". Bespoke or tailored versions of iPlayer should only be developed "in exceptional cases", presumably due to the extra cost involved.
A consultation on the BBC's proposed new syndication policy has been launched today as part of the Trust's ongoing review. The policy governs how on-demand, or 'catch up' content is made available for distribution on platforms such as Freeview, Freesat, Sky and Virgin.
"As the number of platforms and the popularity of on-demand TV grows, ensuring that licence fee payers have convenient access to all the BBC's services on demand is vital to the BBC's ability to fulfil its public purposes," said BBC Trustee Diane Coyle, who led the syndication policy review.
"Since the iPlayer first launched in 2007, watching programmes this way has become a routine part of many people's viewing habits. But we know that audiences get the most out of BBC programmes when they access them in a context that is consistent, familiar, distinctive and free to air, like the iPlayer. Our provisional conclusions reflect the importance of delivering programmes in this trusted public space."
Coyle added: "The BBC must continue to deliver what licence fee payers want while also delivering value for money and protecting the BBC's brand. We're now seeking views on these proposed changes to the syndication policy to help the BBC meet that challenge in an on-demand world."
Virgin Media's TV platform hosts all of the catch-up services offered by the public service broadcasters - the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 - but Sky has taken a different tact.
The satellite broadcaster relies on its Sky+ timeshift service for viewers to record programming, rather than offering dedicated catch-up resources such as iPlayer. That means users have to make a concerted effort to record content or they will miss out entirely.
Sky director of TV product development Brian Lenz recently said that talks are "ongoing" with all the main PSBs about getting their catch-up content on the Sky platform. However, today's ruling by the Trust appears to cast doubt on the chances of a deal with the BBC.
Asked whether the impasse over iPlayer rests with the BBC or Sky, Lenz said: "To be 100% fair, it's both sides. Both of us have views".