The BBC future media and technology division has invited tenders for the provision of interactive services. The current service provider, Red Bee Media, formerly BBC Broadcast, is expected to be among any bidders for the contract which is worth up to £25 million. The services provided include interactive television playout, online publication, related systems management and hotline support.

The services are divided into four lots and the stated preference is to award one contract to cover all services.

The tender process also covers future interactive services including production, management, transcoding, hosting, publishing, distribution, protection and monitoring of interactive services delivered over internet protocol, broadcast or other networks.

The contracts are valued between £17.5 million and £25 million over five years, with the provision to extend by a further two years. As a public body, the BBC is legally obliged under European Union procurement directives to put out to tender any such contracts valued at over £140,000.

Contracts are expected to be awarded in June, with implementation completed by the end of September.

Similar services are currently provided by Red Bee Media, formerly BBC Broadcast, under a contract that expires in September 2008. The time limit for the receipt of tenders has already closed and Red Bee Media is believed to be among any bidders.

“It is difficult to see how it would be economically advantageous for the BBC to go elsewhere for these services but it could be used to improve and extend the existing provision and constrain costs,” said Dr William Cooper, principal consultant at informitv and former head of interactive at BBC Broadcast.

The service descriptions include BBC iPlayer on TV but do not specifically cover the iPlayer online. Additional online services, including hosting, are currently provided by Siemens Business Services as part of a wider technology framework agreement with the BBC.