Further details have been revealed about the global BBC iPlayer, which is soon to launch in Europe. It will launch as an Apple iPad app and will support downloads to the device, allowing users to view programmes more than once, for an unlimited time, so long as they maintain their subscription to the service. In practice, the number of programmes that can be stored will be limited by the capacity of the device.
BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith told the industry magazine Broadcast that it will be a “Best of British” proposition, with both new programmes and library material. He said there will be “thousands of hours at launch, and more built up over time”. The catalogue will be curated, with plans to feature packages of similar themes or genres, with social, genre-based events to promote archive material alongside new releases.
The service will initially go live in Western Europe this summer. Users will be able to download the iPad app for free, but will need to pay a subscription of $10, around £6.20, a month for access to the service.
It appears that the service will also carry pre-roll advertising. The national tourism agency VisitBritain has signed up as one of the first advertising partners, promoting the country in anticipation of the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the London Olympics in 2012.
The support for downloads will be welcomed by users, although the number of programmes that can be retained on an iPad will be limited by available storage capacity.
BBC Worldwide already sells large library of programmes through Apple iTunes under the banner “the best of British TV”. We can expect to see many of the same titles available through the Global iPlayer on a subscription basis.
Jana Bennett, who is ultimately responsible for the Global iPlayer at BBC Worldwide, recently said at the Banff World Television Festival: “our ambition is to present a timeless mix of classic and contemporary UK creativity, showcasing the best of British content from the 1950s to the present day. Vintage British creativity but fresh and for the future.”
BBC Worldwide saw over 12 million downloads of apps for smartphones and tablets in the last year, of which 9 million were Lonely Planet travel apps for smartphones and Apple iPads. Other titles included an international news app, a Doctor Who game and recipe apps. BBC Worldwide will no doubt be hoping for significantly more downloads for the Global iPlayer.
The public service BBC iPlayer is available in the United Kingdom as a free iPad app but currently only supports streaming of programmes rather than downloads, effectively limiting usage on the move. It offers access to BBC channels and a wide range of catch-up programming that will not be available on the BBC Global iPlayer.