Today BBC Worldwide has launched the global BBC iPlayer in Australia. It’s a very important step for BBC Australia’s digital growth and I think it offers a really exciting addition to the market for consumers.
Like most people in the media, I have looked at BBC iPlayer in the UK from afar – and with great envy. I’ve admired its innovation and technological supremacy; the unrivalled opportunity it gives viewers to catch up, or watch something they have missed on linear transmission; and the way it has caught the imagination of its users, resulting in around three million TV requests a day.
It felt like the most incredible bonus that the BBC could give its licence fee payers – catch up content when they want it, wherever they want it and for free.
From the outset, I was really keen to get a version of the BBC iPlayer to Australia, but also acutely aware that there were parts of the model which just wouldn’t work for BBC Worldwide and the Australian market.
We couldn’t offer a catch up TV service in the same way as the UK and – as the commercial arm of the BBC charged with making money to drive back into more great new British content in the UK – we obviously couldn’t offer it for free!
But Australians love television and in particular great British TV. Lots of us grew up with British comedy and have a deep engagement with it – it’s probably what is behind our common sense of humour. As a child, I remember watching the ABC afternoon TV and then talking about it on the train to school the next day. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter – this was the 1970s version of the ‘watercooler moment’.
BBC Worldwide has access to a rich archive of programmes, both BBC shows and those of other fantastic British TV producers. I felt there was a real opportunity in Australia to bring some of that classic content to audiences in a very unique format, on an innovative platform, the iPad.
We also knew, through our research, that BBC iPlayer complements existing viewing habits, rather than cannibalises them, so we felt confident that there was space in the Australian market for this product. We decided that Australia should be one of the first territories to sign up to the pilot.
So what does the Australian consumer get from the global BBC iPlayer app?
Well they get some fantastic classic and contemporary British programming – and we’ll be delivering this to them in editorially curated packages. This content includes some much-loved programs, like Doctor Who, Silent Witness, Absolutely Fabulous, Little Britain, Michael Palin’s Pole to Pole and Charlie and Lola, but also some surprises. Did you know that Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie started their careers as a double act? Well, on global BBC iPlayer you can see the comedy partnership in its glory, in A Bit Of Fry and Laurie. Hugh Laurie really does have a British accent.
There will also be some exclusive content, including episodes of Holby City. The BBC owns an enormous amount of programming that either has a pent up demand to be seen or has never been seen in Australia before. This will give viewers an opportunity to see some of it.
The programmes will be delivered through eight curated genres: News Specials & Documentaries; Entertainment; Drama; Comedy; Science & Nature; Family & Kids; Music & Culture and Lifestyle.
But we’ll also be curating collections around special subjects or themes and I’m pleased to announce that the first one will be “Daleks Forever!” classic Dalek encounters from 1963 onwards. Content will also be curated around the Doctors themselves, starting with Doctor Who: The William Hartnell years, Doctor Who: The Patrick Troughton years and Doctor Who: The David Tennant years.
So there will be over 1000 hours of great content from launch and we’ll be adding to it every week with new content in our ‘Just In’ section and, as we discover the programmes that users are most enjoying on the iPlayer, we’ll identify this content for you in our ‘Most Popular’ section too.
So how much will this cost? Well, it will cost nothing to download the app from the iTunes App Store and there will be a selection of programmes to sample for free. If they like what they see, customers can then subscribe for a monthly fee of AU$ 9.49 or an annual cost of AU$89.99.
I don’t think that’s a bad price to pay for access to such a fantastic treasure trove of British TV content, which will be continually added to.
The launch of global BBC iPlayer in Australia marks an important step forward for BBC Worldwide Australia’s digital growth and our intention to bring quality British content to audiences in an innovative, creative and easily accessible format.
If you are reading this in Australia, I hope you will take the time to download the app, sample some of the free content available and maybe even subscribe.
Read the press release here.