The BBC has been promising an international, paid-for version of its iPlayer TV catchup service for some time now. It has taken the first steps in that direction with an iPad app, but right now it’s still a Europe-only proposition.
Quite aside from initially being limited to 11 European countries, the iPlayer app also differs from the standard iPlayer service (which runs on the same lines as the ABC’s iView) in two important ways. On the upside, it lets you download shows for offline viewing. On the downside, it doesn’t provide direct access to many recent BBC broadcasts.
Instead, it has a curated collection of BBC-produced content, including such as excellent but hardly new shows as Fawlty Towers, as well as more recent fare such as Sherlock and Doctor Who. The one obvious regular show visible in the screen grabs is EastEnders. Subscription prices run at €6.99 ($9.10) per month or €49.99 ($65) per year, which gives some indication of what pricing might be in Australia.
The BBC has said it plans a global rollout of the app, but hasn’t provided a timetable. I’m a big fan of iPlayer when I hit the UK, but given how frequently BBC content is repeated on secondary digital channels in Australia (to say nothing of pay TV options like UK Gold), I don’t think this approach is going to be a particularly appealing model for Australians. I would happily pay the BBC money for access to some current broadcasts (especially for shows like Have I Got News For You? and Mock The Week which never get exported). For classic TV, I already have plenty of other options.
It’s no surprise that the BBC is using the iPad to roll this service out rather than a browser-based service, which is how iPlayer runs in the UK. Using the iPad makes it easier to block access to non-subscribers and minimise distribution of downloaded files. For Australian users, right now using some kind of VPN service to access the original iPlayer is still the most viable option.
BBC launches global iPlayer app [BBC News]