Having launched in Europe in late July, Australia has today become the second region in the world to get access to the official BBC iPlayer iPad app. The app itself is free, and includes access to ten hours or so of sample content: for ongoing access to the full range of iPlayer content, you need to pay either $9.49 a month or $89.99 a year.
While it shares the same name, the iPlayer iPad app doesn't offer the awesome BBC iPlayer online catch-up service available to UK residents (which is very similar to the ABC's iView). Instead, it's an archive video-on-demand service, letting you access content sorted into eight genres. That ranges from established classics such as Fawlty Towers to newer shows such as Top Gear, as well as some you possibly haven't heard of. As well as watching live streaming, you can download shows for later watching; that content remains viewable as long as your subscription is active.
The shows on offer in Australia (initially around 1,000 hours) are slightly different to those offered in Western Europe; for instance, legendary soap EastEnders isn't included here (since BBC Worldwide already has a deal with UK TV to broadcast it in Australia). There is the odd program which hasn't been shown locally, the most significant example of which is weekly soap Holby City, but for the most part content won't appear on iPlayer for iPad until after it has had a local broadcast.
As I said when the European service launched, this might not appeal much if you've got pay TV, since BBC repeats are a regular feature on many channels. That said, the app performed well when I checked out the preview version, and the ability to download shows could be very useful for on-plane viewing or other disconnected scenarios. Currently it's iPad only.
Check in later today for our exclusive discussion with BBC Worldwide on future plans for iPlayer.
BBC iPlayer [iTunes App Store]