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.