Global iPlayer app launches in Europe

An iPad running the BBC iPlayer app

Fawlty Towers, Top Gear, Luther, EastEnders - and a history of Daleks through the ages - are among 1500 hours of contemporary and classic content released today to 11 European countries via the global BBC iPlayer app.

Available exclusively on iPad, for this first pilot roll-out, the 6.99 euro monthly subscription package will offer current programmes on demand - some only days after UK transmission and including BBC soaps - alongside archive gems like Only Fools and Horses and Pride and Prejudice.

Independent productions and programmes from other broadcasters will also be in BBC Worldwide's 'best of British' mix, including the likes of Primeval, Naked Chef and Misfits.

Specially 'curated' collections will feature a David Attenborough compilation, the story of the royal family and a quirky trawl through the Doctor Who archive to chronicle the story of the Doctor's arch nemisis the Daleks, using rarely seen animation and behind the scenes footage.

New platforms

Talent-driven packages, following the career of, say, Miranda Hart - from Hyperdrive to her award-winning eponymous series - is another option. Collections will be compiled by a BBCW editorial team, headed up by Matthew Littleford, former controller or UKTV.

Start Quote

This is probably the most editorially curated, hand-crafted, on-demand tv product out there”

End Quote Jana Bennett BBCW president of global iPlayer

The initial Western European territories are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

Over the next year, the commercial iPlayer will launch in the US, Australia and other territories, says Jana Bennett, Worldwide's president of worldwide networks and global iPlayer, with plans to extend the service to iPhones, Apple TV and eventually laptops and other platforms.

Content is arranged in eight genres; news specials and documentaries, entertainment, drama, comedy, science & nature, family & kids, music & culture and lifestyle. There's an A-Z, search and a 'just in' feature for the month's new releases to the iPad.

View offline

Of around 100 hours added each month, one in five new releases will have had its original UK broadcast in the past month.

In the case of EastEnders, the offer will vary, country by country, depending on what access audiences already have (via satellite or digital cable) to live transmissions, but it's likely to be an omnibus edition. With something like Sherlock, the complete first or last series could be made available.

Users can stream or download shows to view offline, for the duration of the subscription.

The commercial global version may have the look and feel of the successful UK iPlayer, but that's where the similarity ends, Bennett says.

It's not a seven-day catch up linked to UK channel schedules, but an on-demand, genre-based, bespoke subscription model for international audiences. Completely unsubsidised, it will have to pay its way and hopefully return a profit. And as a multi-territory subscription service, it has not been able to re-use all of the UK iPlayer technology.

Hand-crafted

'It allows people to choose what they do know, then and explore new content. You can't make the same assumptions about what people are looking for outside the scheduled environment,' she told Ariel.

'This isn't a catalogue service, it's much more about editorial curation - taking a leaf out of BBC Four's book in the way it has presented its seasons. This is probably the most editorially curated, hand-crafted, on-demand tv product out there.'

Start Quote

We want to pursue multiple platforms for our programmes and brands, taking British programmes to new digital audiences around the world'.”

End Quote John Smith BBC Worldwide CEO

So why only on iPad? 'Partly because we want to pilot this in a way that we can get good user feedback and understand they way people are using it,' Bennett says.

'In terms of radical simplicity of design and good user experience… we think it's a really good fit.'

And without true catch-up, will it catch on?

'From our research internationally, we think what people want is access to great content from Britain and from the BBC. The catch-up model, in the way we'd see it, just doesn't apply unless you're in the UK,' she argues.

As an editorially-driven product, Bennett does not see it as a direct competitor to services like iTunes, Hulu or Netflix.

Worldwide chief exec John Smith said the launch was in line with the company's ambition to 'pursue multiple platforms for our programmes and brands, taking British programmes to new digital audiences around the world'.

'Today marks a significant next step on a digital journey that has already seen 12m BBC Worldwide apps downloaded across brands as diverse as Lonely Planet to Good Food,' he said.

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