Global iPlayer launches as a pilot in 11 Western Europe countries today

We’re proud to be launching today the global BBC iPlayer app, a brand new commercial, video on-demand (VoD) service that will offer our international audiences access to the best contemporary and classic shows from the BBC. The pilot will initially be available as an iPad app from the iTunes store for €6.99 a month (€49.99 for an annual subscription) and will be available in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. Users will be able to select shows by touching the on-screen programme image and either stream and watch them immediately or download to watch offline later.

Since the public service iPlayer launched in the UK on Christmas day 2007, we’ve heard calls from the international audience of British TV fans who also want to access BBC programmes online in innovative ways. The global BBC iPlayer is an exciting step towards addressing the international demand for high-quality content – be that catching up with Eastenders in Oostend, watching the modern-day Luther all the way in Wittenberg or revisiting Fawlty Towers and Manuel from the Costa del Sol.

Aside from its name, look and feel, the commercial global BBC iPlayer shares very little with its wonderful cousin, the UK BBC iPlayer, which offers an on demand and catch-up experience across eight terrestrial TV channels and 40 radio stations for a licence-fee-paying audience. The global BBC iPlayer is a very different proposition, for a different audience: the underlying technology and subscription business model are different, the rights are acquired on a territory by territory basis, and above all its content is different: 1,500 hours of shows dating from last week back to the 1950’s, selected and curated by our brilliant team of editors.

Western Europe has some of the world’s most vibrant media markets and is home to many early adopters of new technology, and to some 2m British expats. There is a strong appetite for BBC programmes and websites in the region too, making it a natural location to pilot a new initiative like this app. We’re trialing it there initially to find out exactly what our audiences outside the UK want in terms of VoD content and we’ll be keeping an eye on consumer reaction and demand. Piloting on Apple’s iPad means our addressable market, while niche, should be of sufficient size for us to gain those learnings.

We are hoping that the global BBC iPlayer is going to offer an excellent opportunity for the UK’s creative industry to directly reach much sought-after digital audiences and revenue streams around the world and we will tailor it to individual markets. As we’ve found elsewhere, audiences tend to see VoD as additional to their normal linear TV viewing – not instead of – and the global BBC iPlayer will sit alongside BBC Worldwide’s existing channels and distribution outlets. It will offer international audiences a ‘Best of British’ experience, combining both specially curated content from the depths of the BBC archive, like Pride and Prejudice to current programming like Doctor Who. 

As with all BBC Worldwide activity, the fundamental aim behind the global BBC iPlayer is to realise more value from British TV content and to generate money to support the licence fee. By using the latest technology to offer more platforms for distribution, BBC Worldwide hopes to generate revenues that can be reinvested in the UK creative industry to create further brilliant programming.

The global BBC iPlayer is taking its first steps this week, and we’ll be looking at user feedback and considering a range of platform developments as we map out the exciting journey ahead.

About Luke Bradley-Jones

Managing Director, BBC.com and Global iPlayer
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8 Responses to Global iPlayer launches as a pilot in 11 Western Europe countries today

  1. nadiausa says:

    Let me know, I signed up for notify of new posts with the check boxes.

  2. Luke Bradley-Jones says:

    Thank you for the comments. Just a couple of points I wanted to mention here regarding radio and the availability of the global BBC iPlayer on other platforms.

    I agree that it would be fantastic to include radio in the app, but unfortunately it’s a bit more complex to offer this at the moment due to rights issues – but rest assured, we’re looking at how we could make that happen.

    In terms of having the service on other platforms, as mentioned in my post above, we’ll be looking at a range of options during this first phase. We’ve launched initially on the iPad so that we can monitor audience behaviour on one device and tailor the service before we approach a wider roll out. This is just the start for the global BBC iPlayer and we’re really excited about what the future might hold for the service.

    Thanks again.

  3. Geoff Coupe says:

    While I realise it’s a trial, I have absolutely no intention of buying an iPad just to be able to use iPlayer here in The Netherlands. I hope that at some point in the future the iPlayer will be available on subscription for PCs.

  4. akismet-60e7ae9dacff2a332d066411afe01cfb says:

    Brilliant is all I can say (and FINALLY!) – Now, just get it across the pond, and everyone will be happy :)

  5. I’m not going to buy an iPad just to watch BBC TV.
    Why couldn’t this have been made available to the home computer market first? It’s easy to plug a computer into an LCD TV (as mine permanently is), and people do tend to watch TV, you know, at HOME. I can’t see many people sitting on the bus with their iPads maxing out their GB download limits watching BBC TV programmes. Can you? Really?
    I’ve been looking forward to this and now I have to wait even longer. Not happy.

  6. radiogirl22 says:

    Oh, just to add, you’d best make it clear that radio is not included in the app’s description in iTunes. Otherwise there’ll be people who are only downloading it for radio who’ll be deeply disappointed, given the time we’ve waited.

  7. radiogirl22 says:

    Waited a year, what do we get? iPad only and no radio at all.

    And if you live in Europe, have absolutely no interest in TV, very much want iPlayer radio and have an iPhone? Missing a “revenue stream” right here. Not to mention “international demand for high quality content”.

    Please think again and offer the iPlayer Radio with the listen again element for mobile iOS, to run on iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch, for a fee priced slightly under the iPad TV player app.

    Can’t be a copyright issue so what’s the hold up? Why the sole focus on TV? Revenue streams await!

  8. kenwestmoreland says:

    Well, it’s a start, even if the exlcusive tie-up with Apple is short-sighted, but the BBC should also offer the service to cable and IPTV operators as well, just as it does in the UK. Viewers may find the stuff on live channels like BBC Entertainment, BBC America, BBC Canada and UK.TV in Australia and New Zealand less than appealling, though not as unapealling as BBC programmes on local channels being dubbed, subtitled, cut, censore or interrupted with long advertising breaks.

    Cable and/or IPTV operators in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands carry BBC One and Two, for which they pay the BBC to clear rights (unlike the ones in Switzerland) so there is a case for them carrying the domestic UK iPlayer

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