BBC launches global iPlayer in Australia, but there's no global Licence Fee
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
By Nick Ross
BBC's iPlayer has launched in Australia. Usually the service allows Brits to watch live TV or 'catch-up TV' - the term for watching shows which recently aired. The ABC has a similar service called iView which is now the third most popular section of ABC Online (and is growing, fast). Both, however, only allow access to people based within the host country. The Australian iPlayer is a very different beast and could start a revolution of sorts in global media distribution.
The new global iPlayer uses a commercial model (unusual for a public-funded broadcaster) and will only serve as a Video On Demand service. It will ultimately provide access to the bulk of the BBC's massive television archives, with over 1000 hours being available at launch and "hours" of additional footage being "regularly added".
Subscriptions will cost $9.49 per month or $89.99 per year. The first ten hours are free to allow 'try-before-you-buy'.
The new version is exclusive to iPad although new platforms will be catered for in due course: iPhone, web browsers, Android mobile devices, televisions and more.
Disappointingly, cold water was poured on the notion of potentially paying a global Television license fee to access live and catch up BBC TV - something British expats and international BBC fans have longed for, for years. Jana Bennett, President of BBC Worldwide Networks and iPlayer told the ABC, "There isn't a plan to have a license fee per se, but there is potential to answer the pent up demand by having something like this."
This global variant of iPlayer is being used as a pilot in Australia while the BBC gauges usage and demand before releasing it in larger territories like the US. The global iPlayer has previously been running in various Western European countries, where it launched in July. The Australian launch represents a step up in the pilot program as demand is likely to be higher due to native English speaking and a relatively high concentration of British ex-pats.
Video quality will be tailored to the iPad meaning that those who connect their iPad to HD TVs won't get HD quality. However, this could change as demand increases and internet infrastructure improves.
Content will be spread across eight genres: News Specials and Documentaries, Entertainment, Drama, Science and Nature; Family and Kids; Music and Culture Comedy and Lifestyle. There will also be special Collated Content Collections the first of which will be a Dr Who "Dalek" retrospective. Dr Who is an understandable choice as it is one of the BBC's most popular exports and demand for it has been largely responsible for driving the high adoption rate of iPlayer and iView in the UK and Australia.
Launch programs include the entire first series of Dr Who along with Little Britain, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Ab Fab, Silent Witness, The Hairy Bikers, Charlie and Lola and Deadly 60. The BBC's renowned period drams will also feature and include Pride and Prejudice, Cranford and the House of Elliot. Also included is Holby City, The Blackadder box set, Top Gear specials, Gavin and Stacey, Torchwood, Walking with Dinosaurs, Bottom, Life of Birds, Panorama and much more. Where programmes overlap with existing Australian network licensing deals, we were told, all existing contracts would be honoured. EastEnders, the seminal UK soap remains exclusive to Foxtel within Australia.
It will be interesting to see how global commercial conglomerates react to the BBC's new commercial move - Rupert Murdoch's media empire is unlikely to welcome the incursion into its commercial territory. However, whether the BBC would even be able to notice an escalation in his organisation's already-hostile views on public-funded broadcasting remains to be seen.
There are plenty of existing Video on Demand services across the world, such as Apple's iTunes, TiVo and America's hugely-popular Netflix. However, the BBC's vast high-quality archive should rival if not easily beat any existing value propositions.
Thursday, September 29, 2011