Rory Cellan-Jones

BBC programmes on your iPod

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 19 Feb 08, 09:53 GMT

Now this is an in-house story, so I'm going to have to strive even harder than usual to remain impartial, but this morning's announcement that BBC programmes are now on sale on Apple's iTunes store seems really significant to me.

The idea is that after getting access to BBC content for nothing for eight days via the iPlayer, you will then be able to pay £1.89 to download and own a programme from iTunes. It is the first time the BBC has asked UK viewers to pay to download content, and it will be interesting to see how they react. Millions have been happy to pay for DVDs of series like Little Britain - but will they react differently when they are asked to shell out for something they can't stick on a shelf?

But what is really different about this move is that it makes TV portable. I've just downloaded an episode of Life On Mars, which I will then be able to view on my computer, or on my television - or transfer to an iPod or iPhone so that I can watch it on the tube on the way to work.

At Mobile World Congress last week there was a lot of excitement about media on the move, but not many new ideas about getting compelling content to users. This seems a step forward in that respect.

The iTunes launch is a way for the BBC to try out a concept before the much more ambitious Project Kangaroo which will see a number of broadcasters come together with a platform offering thousands of hours of current and archive programming for paid downloading.

Of course, some are already swapping BBC content for free using file-sharing software - and as the music industry has found it's difficult to get people to pay for something they can get - albeit illegally - for nothing. But, once you've handed over your credit card details, buying a programme from iTunes is an awful lot easier and more reliable than hunting it down on the web and trying to suck it into your computer. The BBC - and other broadcasters - will be hoping that millions of viewers will now choose the simple option.


  • 1.
  • At 12:30 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • gillick wrote:

There is of course the problem that if you buy a program from iTunes then you will only be able to watch it on Apple approved devices. Whereas you can buy the DVD, rip it and then watch it on any device. Though maybe you are trading ease of use for player choice here.

  • 2.
  • At 01:06 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Daniel Delahoyde wrote:

This is another disappointing technology move from the BBC. It's yet more evidence of the BBC's commitment to and promotion of DRM and proprietary media players and formats. It also shows the BBC is ready and willing to sell it's content to the highest bidder regardless of it's Public Service duty to provide access to it's programmes to the widest possible audience.

Those who want access to the BBC's content online should not have to pay Apple for the privilege or have to use a Microsoft operating system and media player to view the programmes they want to see.

  • 3.
  • At 01:28 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Ewan wrote:

buying a programme from iTunes is an awful lot easier and more reliable than hunting it down on the web and trying to suck it into your computer

Except, of course, that it isn't, especially if you have any devices that Apple's DRM doesn't support. It's strange that you refer to being "able to pay £1.89 to download and own a programme", when ownership implies a degree of control that simply doesn't exist here; if I 'own' a programme in this way can I sell it on? (I can with a DVD) Can I lend it to a friend? (I can with a DVD) Can I ditch my player and replace it with one from another manufacturer? (I could with a DVD).

This isn't ownership, it a limited and controlling lend back of something we already paid for. Maybe you remember the BBC Creative Archive" from only a few years ago? What happened to our BBC that we've gone from "free and available to everyone", to paying £1.89 for a pale imitation of ownership?

  • 4.
  • At 01:31 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • PepFujasProModel wrote:

Err, no thanks

We pay enough as it is for our licence fee.

I think i'll just keep using my sony vaio media centre pc and some converting software to watch programmes that I HAVE ALREADY PAID TO BE MADE on my ipod i think


  • 5.
  • At 01:36 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Gavin wrote:

Hmmmm. I see it as extremely unfair as a mac user. Most of the iplayer users are able to download the programs as they are using windows.

I have to stream in poorer quality and then have the wonderful option of paying for a program on itunes which my license fee should have covered,

The promise of the bbc providing iplayer for mac is looking slightly shaky after this announcement.

  • 6.
  • At 01:41 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Dave wrote:

When will programs become available?
Surely they will be available when the episode is aired. Why then pay for a licence fee to watch programs if they are being sold nationally?
It the BBC going to fund this money back into the business or is it clear profit and the licence payer is at a loss?
Selling DVDs only happens when the shows have been established but this is an immediate service.
A lot of the American networks did the same thing but most of them pulled their shows from iTunes can subscribers be assured the same will not happen in the UK?

  • 7.
  • At 01:44 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Ross wrote:

I've used iTunes to dowload the first few episodes of Damages before letting the series link on my HD recorder pick up the remaining episodes.

I think this is a great idea to allow people to legally download programs. I'd love to able to copy from hard-drive recorder on to my iPod so I could take the rest of the series on my travels.

I have just purchased Ashes to Ashes and Torchwood and would like to see Season 1 of that show on iTunes as well. This is a fantastic offering and I think the BBC would find people abroad would buy lots as when I lived in Canada I desperately wanted to watch / buy BBC content.
How about whole series like All Creatures Great & Small, Bleak House, Porridge, etc.?

  • 9.
  • At 02:04 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Andy wrote:

I can already download and watch programs from iPlayer on any PC, my N95 Phone and my iPod...Just need to remove that pesky DRM first !..hee..Whoops..But thats naughty isn't it !

  • 10.
  • At 02:06 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Barrie wrote:

As a Mac User the only way I am able to download programmes is through iTunes. So while Windows PC users can download free of charge, this licence fee payer has to wait a week and pay for the privilege.
As the BBC has now proved that iTunes is a suitable vehicle for downloading programmes, why are they not free to UK licence fee payers, as they are to some users on iPlayer?

  • 11.
  • At 02:08 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Mike Brown wrote:

I pay for BBC shows through my license I am certainly not gonna pay for low quality compressed video of stuff I have already paid for. BBC iPlayer is more than adequate if I miss a show...And if I want to keep a copy I use my TV card on my PC and record shows and burn them to DVD...£1.89 for a show from iTunes.....14p for a blank contest really

A little bit disappointing actually. There's a tiny selection of shows, and it's not even complete. Where is series 2 of Life On Mars?

I know this is meant to complete with DVD sales and not with the iPlayer, but it just seems like more of the same rather than something innovative.

There was speculation recently that iPlayer programmes could appear as free 'rentals' on the iTunes Store. There was an overwhelmingly positive response to this proposal, and I hope the BBC actually implements this rather than just considering the iTunes box 'ticked'.

  • 13.
  • At 02:11 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

Will BBC make programmes available on iTunes for people outside the UK? I live in Canada, and love Doctor Who and Torchwood, but the Canadian Broadcasting Corp, which co-produces the shows, takes so long to air them that, right now, Torchwood series 2 is airing on BBC America with no sign that it will air on CBC. Meanwhile, CBC never aired the Christmas episode of Dr Who and I'm going to bet that it will be the autumn (if ever) before they are series 4. I'd just like to dload it from iTunes and cut out the middle man.

  • 14.
  • At 02:11 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Christy wrote:

Wait a minute...PAY to download BBC shows? I've paid for them already through my license fee. Why on earth would I not only pay again, but wait for the privilege until weeks after the episode was originally broadcast? Other sources will have the show within hours.

Not going to happen. Offer me some shows which haven't been broadcast on the BBC for some time - the archives, in other words - and we'll talk. I've been wanting to re-watch 'Moondial' and 'Over Here' for years. Those I'd pay for.

  • 15.
  • At 02:15 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Stephen Goodfellow wrote:

The media industry has long believed in selling customers the same content in several different formats (Cinema to DVD to TV etc), and although the BBC is keen to open up new revenue streams they might find it hard to make this sort of business model work in the digital age.

If I’ve already paid for it via a TV licence, then haven’t I already paid for it? If I’m paying for the convenience of a recorded copy, how is that different from a VCR? Are digital copies of content somehow different from analogue ones? If so, shouldn’t people with Sky Plus boxes be paying the BBC £2 per episode?

The itunes deal might bring the TV download market to the mainstream, but shows like Top Gear already rank as some of the most downloaded in the world over pirate networks. The reality is that finding good copies isn’t as hard as you might think; pirate communities are self-regulating and the most popular versions generally turn out to be the best quality.

In terms of convenience, it’s a fairly simple matter to set up a torrent client with a RSS feed for a certain show. New episodes are delivered almost as soon as they get aired.

It’s going to be difficult to convince anyone to change their ways, particularly as the morality of the content argument seems less based on ownership and more on the practicalities of the associated business models. But with TV downloads now making up an estimated half of all torrent bandwidth used its inevitable that change is needed.

  • 16.
  • At 02:16 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Brian Russell wrote:

Why anyone would pay £1.89 per episode is beyond me.

The DVD release will be cheaper, better quality, not infected with DRM and *more portable* - easily transferable to non apple devices as well as iPod.

You just have to look at the comments against any TV shows in the UK iTunes store and you'll see the above echoed many, many times.

Personally I prefer to series record the over the air Freeview transmission and transfer that to my iPod. Cost... The licence fee.

I don't receive a TV broadcast, and I do miss out on some programs that I cannot get on DVD.

This, if correctly priced, may put my one step further away from ever wanting or needing a TV

  • 18.
  • At 02:17 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

Let's not be too hasty here. The BBC is using iTunes because it's a globally used easily understood means of distribution. However, when other providers - such as Amazon - come on line I would imagine they will also have access to the Beeb's catalogue.

  • 19.
  • At 02:20 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Tim Dunne wrote:

In reply to Dave most US TV companies didn't pull their shows only one did NBC. The US itunes store has loads of content from all other TV stations in the US.
I see the itunes sales the same as DVD sales. you pay to own. Content streamed to you TV over the air or to your computer over the internet is not owned by you.

  • 20.
  • At 02:21 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Dave wrote:

Interesting that the BBC's internet policy is also making programmes available overseas, an area where the BBC traditionally sold is output to other broadcasters in a bid to fund the companys other productions.

The BBC now seems to have a split policy - offering some products for free, and some at cost.

It suprises me that programmes arnt downloadable from the iplayer website with some DRM, rather than an out an out sale (as you would expect as a licence payer).

However, with such an international medium such as Itunes prefalent to reap world pricings, its hardly a suprising line to take.

Interesting! I'm looking forward to seeing how the new media forms that the BBC is investing in will develop.

  • 21.
  • At 02:24 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Joules wrote:

Great move.

And iPlayer is great too - even the streaming version that us Mac users have to use is pretty good.

But what I REALLY want is to be able to watch iPlayer on an iPod or AppleTV for free. Of course, the content would still expire after 7 days (this IS technically possible using Apple's DRM) - if I wanted to keep it for longer then I'd be happy to pay £1.89.

And can you get Channel 4 to follow suit?


  • 22.
  • At 02:26 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Stuart wrote:

Well, I think it's a bit cheeky to be honest. I should at least be able to download the shows from iTunes for free for the first 8 days a la iPlayer and only then should you have to pay for them. Otherwise, we're effectively paying for them twice!

  • 23.
  • At 02:40 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Matthew wrote:

I'm hugely supportive of the BBC but this is an outrage.

I'm prepared to purchase DVDs and recognise the costs involved in creation and distribution.

But paying for a download just feels like buying the same thing twice.

I can't see my licence fee being reduced to compensate for all the programmes I choose not to watch or download.

Being able to get the Mighty Boosh piecemeal at £1.89 (who decided that price btw?!) an episode just seems cheeky to me. Especially considering there isn't an alternative on-line streaming version of these shows, available free to UK license fee payers (outside of the last 7 days broadcasting, thank you iPlayer).

Don't get me wrong, I have no problems with people outside the UK being able to buy this content at that price... but the BBC shouldn't be offering us Brits the fantastic option of paying twice before giving us the opportunity of getting what we've paid for (our content, available free when we want it)!

I hope this is just a symptom of the fact that the iTunes distribution platform is available now (and is tried and tested, as well as successful), while instant, on-demand streaming access to any/all publicly funded content (Radio, TV etc - be it through set-top boxes, computers, phones or whatever) is probably a few years away (due to technical hurdles).

I just hope this level of technical innovation isn't above and beyond the capabilities of the BBC.

  • 25.
  • At 02:58 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Jason West wrote:

What i think is unfair is that itunes users in the uk don't have the option to get season passes, instead we have to pay for each episode as they are released which works out a lot more expensive.

  • 26.
  • At 03:04 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Libby wrote:

For ex-pats, this finally allows us to get our hands (legally) on recent BBC programming, which is a huge step forward.

I still see a huge market for BBC Worldwide to open up the iPlayer to overseas users for a fee. Using iTunes provides a similar service, but as others have pointed out, has DRM issues, and the content is not cheap.

But finally, I might get to see Ashes to Ashes before the DVD comes out for Christmas!

  • 27.
  • At 03:15 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • James Taylor wrote:

Will the BBC cease filling up the BBC3 and BBC4 schedules with repeats of shows now that they're charging for downloads of shows? This may work but I have a feeling that there is nothing to make this a viable long term money maker.

  • 28.
  • At 03:17 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Craig McKee wrote:

Will this service be available outside the UK? Currently the i-player is UK only.

I think this is fantastic news. As an exile in Switzerland I still use my account with the UK iTunes store to buy content online.

I was very disappointed with the limitations of the BBC iPlayer as far as Mac's and overseas viewer support were concerned. Now, however, I'll be able to buy the latest series of my favourite shows directly.

I look forward to more content and the girlfriend wants Strictly Come Dancing!

  • 30.
  • At 03:18 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Eddie wrote:

iTunes USA users can access LOST from for zero cents, why do us Brits have to pay £1.89 - another example of rip-off Britain?

  • 31.
  • At 03:23 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Peter Knapp wrote:

Part of what is driving piracy and file sharing networks is that the content that they have, while often not professional quality, often makes obscure content available that the BBC locks in its vaults. It is also DRM free, leaving the end user free to archive it as they wish.

The only way to counter this is to match the pirates in availability and flexibility (no arbitrary restrictions).

Who will pay twice (except non UK nationals) for crippled content they've already paid via the licence fee? With catch up TV, Sky plus, DVD recorders, Google Video, and repeats on digital channels, who except Apple with fairplay locked ipods are going to benefit? With DRM in music on the way out, would it not have been braver to do the same for video too? The librarians of the future will have to be experts in breaking digital locks?

Lastly isn't it bad for the environment to have all these computers running all night downloading duplicate inflexible content (which on iplayer at least and in future, the rest of the BBC archive is merely 'loaned' for a period) so you have to download it again if you want to watch it in future? If so why doesn't the BBC follow one of the Norwegian networks and post content on 'Miro' or something similar?

  • 32.
  • At 03:24 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Andy Rylance wrote:

I think a lot of readers have forgotten that you cannot just "give away for free" all these shows. Iplayer has had to be strictly signed up to by all those involved in the production process. Negotiations with Equity, PACT, BECTU all have to be part and parcel of being able to release shows on different media. So "it should be free all the time" just doesn't work legally when negotiating with all those involved.

Actors get repeat fees for example, and production companies want revenue. By limiting Iplayer content with Digital Rights Management, the BBC is able to hold onto further revenue streams. This is creating value because production companies can budget in extra DVD revenue into their costings which helps the initial cost for the BBC to come down..

  • 33.
  • At 03:34 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Norman Orchison wrote:

Why are people so churlish about the BBC making money. iPlayer is great if you don't mind 'faffing' around. Sky+ is excellent until you realise you've missed the start of a great series. We are an iTunes generation too (and I'm 60 years old!!). We are being given choice - some choice is free and some I willingly pay for. The BBC and Apple are two great organisations, this is a collaboration made in heaven. I believe the BBC to be at the beginning of a renaissance - some great programming recently. This costs money. How many out there could head an organisation that, after 70 or 80 years of Public Broadcasting, still innovates and is still at the forefront of technology?

  • 34.
  • At 03:37 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Ian wrote:

What an utterly atrocious move by the BBC.

No not putting content online, no not putting it on iTunes even but putting it on iTunes for Apples extortionate price of £1.89 per episode.

For those who aren't aware of pricing, US users only pay $1.99 per episode for their shows which works out at around £1.02. Essentially in the UK we're paying 0.87p more per episode which is equivalent to the cost of a whole additional music track per episode from the same store.

Essentially, not only are we being expected to pay for the license fees which pays for the BBC, not only are we having to pay quite a markup on the cost anyway but we're being expected to pay an 87p markup per show over US users of iTunes for their shows.

The BBC needs to cancel this agreement with Apple immediately until we, as license payers are allowed to pay a fair price for shows that we already pay for once through our license fee.

Expecting us to pay for something twice is one thing, expecting to pay not only twice but to pay an unjustifiable mark up that there is simply no excuse for other than ripping off British consumers simply adds insult to injury and must be halted immediately.

So how do you explain it BBC? How can you justify charging us 87p more per episode than US consumers for content we've already paid for once already? I'm not arguing again at least some cost via iTunes, I am arguing the rip-off Britain mark up cost that is simply inexcusable.

  • 35.
  • At 03:37 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Matt Wensley wrote:

Why should we have to pay to watch any BBC content? I already pay for it, every single year!

We pay for the content as License Fee payers already. Why not, instead make it part of the 'rent a download' scheme Itunes now has, and make them free for anyone logging on with a UK ISP, just as the BBC Iplayer is.

That way, the BBC would not need to spend its money developing its own parallel service just for mac users and use the infrastructure already in place for them i.e. Itunes.

Apple does not make a ton of money on the content anyways, so would just be happy to have another reason for people to buy apple products and I would be able to have free downloads that lasted 'x' amount of time on my mac.

The BBC is sooo confused as to what it is: public broadcaster which is actually owned by the public or a commercial entity which tries to squeeze as much money out of us as possible?

Buying a DVD, I can understand, and yes buying downloads you can keep for ever I can understand (but again they should be cheaper than normal commercial content as they are already paid for by the license fee), but they should be offering free, 'rent a downloads' now, using existing technology.

  • 37.
  • At 03:39 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • John Allen wrote:

Great news. Some points:

First, the money. BBC Worldwide - who are selling this content on iTunes - help subsidise the BBC, so the more money they make, the less the licence fee needs to increase. So, yes, John (#6), the money goes back into the BBC. Indeed, they are being pushed to pick up some of the shortfall from the (deservedly, imho) lower-than-expected licence fee settlement, hence this venture. I would resent it if the BBC harmed its extra revenues by cannibalising post-broadcast sales of its content by just throwing it away.

Second, 'ownership'. Did the BBC give away its content for free on DVD and VHS? No. So why is anyone expecting to receive a permanent licensed digital copy for free? As for owning (Ewan #3), you own a licence for use, not the copyright material. It is immaterial what you think you should be able to do with something you only own a licence to use. You agreed, or are compelled by law, to abide by the terms of the licence. So, you can't broadcast your home DVDs, or rent them on, or show them in a cinema. Similarly, the licence terms of your purchase from the BBC via iTunes can restrict you to 5 Macs or PCs, and Apple portable hardware - you consent as much when you buy it. It may not be ideal, but it isn't an outrage of some higher consitutional ideal in which a free citizenry can watch and distribute Life On Mars as it chooses.

I'm sure that iTunes will just be the start of a range of options for buying BBC content in the on-demand era. That's no reason to tear it apart for being the first.

  • 38.
  • At 03:40 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Sean wrote:

I've downloaded an episode of Torchwood via iTunes and I don't think there is any DRM preventing its use on any non-Apple devices.

The programmes are being made available through BBC Worldwide, the Beeb's commercial arm, and so users throughout the world - as I understand it, will be able to view them, the same as the BBC has dedicated a YoTube channel for worldwide users. Not everyone in the UK has or needs TV license, so should they be made to pay? Of course. And so should everyone else.

The article announcing it claims Little Britain is available, but in fact is just a comedy song from the live tour show - at the moment. Shame.

  • 40.
  • At 03:51 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Mr Maff wrote:

Dave (6),
There is an 8 day delay before the content is available on iTunes. That should give you time to watch it for FREE on iPlayer.
Only one TV company pulled it's shows from iTunes in the US (AFAIK), and that is because they set up their own service to offer the same shows for download.
Also iTunes is not a subscription service, so even if the BBC does pull its shows, you don't lose what you have already bought.

I'm really pleased that the BBC is offering content through iTunes. iPlayer on the windows is great, but I only have 7 days to watch a show. There have been a couple of shows I have downloaded and started to watch, but didn't get opportunity to finish watching in the 7 day window it gives you.

I hope the BBC will put some of it's huge back catalogue of programmes online too.

  • 41.
  • At 03:52 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Mark Wingad wrote:

I don't see the problem with Ttunes and Apple...

If the BBC continue to sell DVD's, Offer iPlayer for the last 7 days or dload service. There new Kangaroo project with ITC and C4 is also offered then there are Plenty of choices for everyone.

iTunes out sells every other online store and if it brings in money to the BBC who minds that ?

If you don't like iTunes you still have plenty of options.
You can Not buy the shows you know. It's like the TV remote you don't have to watch a show.

I use iTunes a bit and will probably use it now for TV shows providing they offer good shows of course.

I would liked to of seen shows offered in HD as well though. Also not its not subscription you get to keep the shows although your limited to Apple hardware.
And yes even if the BBC Pulled the shows one day the ones you have you own and the american networks are going back to Apple even after they left there returning.

But then if you dislike Apple Hardware then buy the DVD', Use iPlayer or the new service when it appears.

More options the BBC gives the better.

As for the argument we payed for it with the license fee then why arn't DVD's free ?

  • 42.
  • At 03:55 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Damien wrote:

A lot of people will overreact to this move.

As far as I can see it this is no different to buying a BBC worldwide dvd. Expect poorer quality and less flexible.

That said the option is there and iPlayer as well as BBC TV still exist.

Also, to follow a previous post, NBC were the only network to pull their shows from iTunes but look set to be re-joining them soon. iTunes TV has been quite a success for the networks over there...

A few responses to the typical British knee jerk reactions to the BBC's (in my opinion excellent) content distribution experiments.

"This isn't ownership, it a limited and controlling lend back of something we already paid for."

We in the UK have paid for a one off airing of a BBC program, isn't it about time the rest of the world got paid for access to the great content we get as part of our licence fee? And if I choose to download my favourite episode of 'X' for my iPod, well I'm a happy chappy... iPlayer also enables totally free 7 day catch up (and download for PC's), and works brilliantly.

"I see it as extremely unfair as a mac user. Most of the iplayer users are able to download the programs as they are using windows."

Well run a windows booting program.....and get to grips with the fact that Apple are now the enemy of cross platform DRM free distribution...Gates is no longer the leader of the evil empire, Jobs is!

We in the streaming and download industry (yes, me included), are having to solve cross patform, DRM, and rights management issues on a day to day basis....sometimes you get it right, othertimes not. What the BBC are doing is what they HAVE to do to keep up in this race for online awareness, and trying to generate money in doing so is what every other broadcaster and content owner worldwide is trying to do. Ignore at your peril dear reader....the BBC is one of the last truely British institutions, it differentiates us from the rest of the world on so many levels. We pay for it, and it is worth every penny. Complaining to the BBC that you have to pay for somethig you've had the right to see for free, been given 7 days to 'catch up' on and could have downloaded to your PC for free, is tantamount to asking the BBC to increase your licence my mind, the more money the Beeb can make from this service the better; ploughing it back into the programming both on radio and television to ensure Britain retains it's leadership in content creation, distribution, audience engagement and technical knowhow.

  • 44.
  • At 03:59 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Will wrote:

We have already paided for this content once why should we have to pay again?

£1.89 is a complete rip off. Life On Mars season 2 is on amazon for £17.89 which works out to be £1.12 per episode under iTunes it would cost £30.24 for the entire season.

£0.50 per episode would be much better and meaning that a season would cost £8. With digital downloads you don't have the cost of the dvds/packaging it is just the line, it should be cheaper.

  • 45.
  • At 04:04 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Natalie wrote:

The problem with i-Tunes is not only that its fairly expensive (£1.89 an episode x 24 episodes = £45!! Most seasonal boxsets retail at £30) but tha quality of the programme download is often of worse quality than the tv progs ripped straight off the tv and put online for free. As many others have said, you are also then limited to only watching it on apple software which frankly drives me nuts.

  • 46.
  • At 04:06 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Colin Taylor wrote:

Brilliant BBC - well done! The ultimate in catch-up!

I can't believe there are people on here complaining about this EXTRA service.

My crazy lifestyle means that I occasionally miss the original transmission and the free download via iplayer!

Itunes is a perfect solution and £1.89 is about right.

The next stage is of course to fully integrate the iplayer with the itunes interface so UK users can catch up with iplayer content for free on their Apple TVs.

Get the archive on here BBC - my wallet is open!

Colin Taylor
Merchant City

  • 47.
  • At 04:07 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Robert wrote:

I think the price is a bit high. About £1 for a 50 minute drama and 50p for a half hour comedy show would be fair for UK users.

If this brings in lots of money from overseas viewers then that's good news for all licence payers as the money goes back into the BBC.

iTunes isn't great but I'm sure the BBC will get onto whatever other pay-per-view platforms emerge.

  • 48.
  • At 04:14 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Tom Stephens wrote:

No, no, no.

We've already paid for the license fee. Like iPlayer, these shows should be free.

Charge the Rest of the World, yes. But we don't even get any discount for paying for these shows in the first place.

  • 49.
  • At 04:17 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Robert wrote:

I think the price is a bit high. About £1 for a 50 minute drama and 50p for a half hour comedy show would be fair for UK users.

If this brings in lots of money from overseas viewers then that's good news for all licence payers as the money goes back into the BBC.

iTunes isn't great but I'm sure the BBC will get onto whatever other pay-per-view platforms emerge.

  • 50.
  • At 04:31 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Err... no thanks. I wouldn't touch anything to do with iTunes thanks to the ridiculous DRM it comes bundled with. Besides, I'd rather wait and have the option to purchase the whole series on DVD, which will invariably be a lot cheaper than buyng individual episodes this way.

  • 51.
  • At 04:53 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • John B wrote:

I welcome the addition of the BBC material to the UK Itunes library, we are fairly restricted with the content available at the moment which seems a tad unfair.
However, I also agree that as a uk citizen, why would I be paying for the programs again and at such a relatively high price when it is free on Iplayer.
Apple has launched the rental service, which removes the ground the BBC gave for using DRM from Microsoft.
Not trying to be negative, but maybe if the programs were available in 720/1080 then viewers would maybe choose to purchase this material available in hidef first from Itunes at this price.
I cannot condone the use of any format that would restrict part of the audience, however, there is a revolution happening with media and it would appear that Apple is helping force the changes for the better.

I would really like to use the new service on the ITMS but £1.89 per episode is just too expensive. Now if they were £1 per episode then I'd be willing to think about it.

  • 53.
  • At 05:19 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Tim Dunne wrote:

Why do people think that paying the license fee gives them right to download the content and keep it forever?

DVD purchases are DRM'd and limited in their own way. you can only use them in DVD players and not copy them portable players without again breaking the law!?

In an ideal world itunes files will have no DRM, but we're not quiet there yet.

I think this service is a good idea and look forward to having access to some of the older content, Dr Who , Red Dwarf etc..

  • 54.
  • At 05:23 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • James wrote:

After reading some of the comments, I think that some people forgot about the fact that "Millions have been happy to pay for DVDs of series like Little Britain". We already have the option of paying for BBC shows, and have done for ages, so this is not a new concept.

However I don't think I will be using this iTunes service. Paying for a DVD seems to me to be better than paying for a digital copy, which could easily be deleted/corrupted etc. A DVD is solid, and lasts for ages, and there is the advantage of being able to watch it on a TV in the comfort of my living room rather than stuck in front of a computer.

The best way to watch episodes on a portable device is to set your digital recorder to record them, then convert to the necessary format. That way you have better quality, it's device-independent, and there's no DRM. However, I can imagine lots of people will use this service just because it's easy for them, as some people reach for their money almost without thinking. After all, this is the society where people will pay a similar price just for a ring tone for their phone! That makes a BBC programme for £1.89 seem very good value! Of course, the service will provide far more value if it makes the BBC's back catalogue of old programmes available, which people might not have the chance to watch or record in the near future.

  • 56.
  • At 05:42 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Norman Orchison wrote:

Why are people so churlish about the BBC making money? iPlayer is great if you don't mind 'faffing' around. Sky+ is excellent until you realise you've missed the start of a great series. We are an iTunes generation too (and I'm 60 years old!!). We are being given choice - some choice is free and some I willingly pay for. The BBC and Apple are two great organisations, this is a collaboration made in heaven. I believe the BBC to be at the beginning of a renaissance - some great programming recently! This costs money. How many out there could head an organisation that, after 70 or 80 years of Public Broadcasting, still innovates and is still at the forefront of technology? Use it or maybe one day we’ll lose it and that would be a disaster made in hell!

  • 57.
  • At 06:09 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • unklerupert wrote:

When BBC content came out on VHS, you paid to own it.

When BBC content came out on DVD, you paid to own it

Now it is available in a new format, digital download, pay to own it.

I think people still have a problem with paying for something that does not come in a big shiny box that sits on the shelf.

The iPlayer is for catch up TV a week after broadcast, no more, is a diff delivery medium and should not really be compared to this new iTunes paid delivery medium.

Personally, I record via freeview DTT tv stick in mac and export programmes I want to keep to iTunes from there.

I will however be paying for 'Ashes to Ashes' episode 1 and as I missed it on first broadcast, and the repeat.

I am the editor of the BBC Internet Blog.

What's happening on iTunes is not dissimilar to the model for Project Kangaroo which Ashley Highfield has blogged about here:

Also this post about iPlayer and the Licence Fee may also be of interest:

There is a common misperception about the Licence Fee. Some people think that paying the Licence Fee means they somehow "own" all BBC TV programmes for ever.

In fact a lot of BBC TV programmes (e.g. Ashes To Ashes) are coproductions or independent productions where the BBC does not own all the rights, and where sometimes money from the licence fee is just part of the funding of the programme.

With these programmes all you get by paying the Licence Fee is the right to watch the TV programme a couple of times on a BBC TV channel (or on the iPlayer in a 7 day window), not the right to own it forever. The rights holders own the programme and then exploit it commercially.

People might think they are paying twice for the same thing, but they're not. They're paying once to watch, and then paying once to own.

  • 59.
  • At 06:44 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Aaron wrote:

No one is forcing the public to buy the programs from iTunes. It does however give people another way of legally owning BBC content and provide the BBC with more money to continue improving their content. If only they'd use the rental model to allow people to rent free for a week, as an alternative to their iPlayer.

  • 60.
  • At 07:38 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Matthew wrote:

A number of replies have missed some very important points:

[1] All the videos on iTunes are bog standard MPEG-4. There are many of devices running all kinds of software which will facilitate the playback back MPEG-4 videos. The BBC should maybe look at providing them DRM free.

[2] Distributing on iTunes is actually cheaper than the BBC paying for all of their own infrastructure to support video downloads. Apple cover all the infrastructure costs (@Matthew – these are not insignificant as you make out), whilst the BBC take about 70-80% profits (this is the typical arrangement, we don't know the exact details with this contract).

[3] People who say "it is easier to rip a DVD" are overlooking one important thing – it's illegal. You are not permitted to copy a purchased DVD to your computer.

[4] The license fee doesn't give you the right to own the content. I don't "own" all the films the BBC broadcasts, I just watch them once. The cost reflects the fact you will own the show (forever, or as long as you choose).

[5] Most of these shows are very near DVD quality to the extent that most of us won't be able to tell the difference.

Finally – whilst they could have chosen someone other than iTunes, it is no. 1 for legal downloads and therefore the obvious choice as most people have access to it. I think this is a positive step and the BBC should be applauded for it.

  • 61.
  • At 08:19 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Dr Dave wrote:

"Making shows available on iTunes was key to BBC Worldwide's aim of getting content out to the broadest possible audience, the corporation said"

Interesting how BBC Worldwide is only making these shows available to UK viewers. Yes, we would pay to see shows in New Zealand (we don't pay the TV licence) if they were available.

And I agree - more archive content please - Quiller for me.

  • 62.
  • At 08:30 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Bill C wrote:

Hang on a minute- what's all the fuss about- you pay a license fee to watch the programme on the TV. That's why it's called a TV license.
The fact that we have been given a catch up option with iplayer for one week after the broadcast is a benefit in kind as technically this isn't covered in the license fee and you don't actually have to have paid a license fee if you are using iplayer.
Personally I think that it's great. If you missed it on TV or on iplayer you can buy it if you like. No- one is forcing you to.
Why shouldn't you pay for that?

  • 63.
  • At 08:49 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Lee wrote:

I've broken my nose smashing it with my hand so many times from reading some of the comments in this thread. Ok not really, but seriously this is just another OPTION.

No-one is forcing anybody to buy these episodes at these prices. You'll STILL be able to buy DVDs if you want to and you'll still have to wait the same amount of time in order to be able to do that as you did before. You'll still have the same iPlayer option that you've got now and the BBC have ALREADY promised us Mac users that downloads will be coming later this year.

In the bad old days of video it was still copyright theft for you to record and keep long term programmes recorded off the telly. As far as I'm aware that hasn't changed. You are not entitlted to take content freely in high definition from any of the BBC's sources and keep it for your own use for anything other than timeshifting - unless you pay for it separately i.e IN ADDITION TO THE LICENSE FEE.

All this is doing is giving yet another avenue for the Beeb to sell their content AFTER broadcast. If you only want one episode you've missed I don't see the problem. If you're happy to pay £1.89 per episode because the inconvenience of waiting for the DVD and then ripping it and then transcoding it to play n your branded media playback device is worth £1.89 to you then fine.

Just because you're not going to do it doesn't make it a bad idea. I'll probably never do it, but it's nice at least to have the option.

Shorthand version: stop whingeing.

  • 64.
  • At 08:53 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Rob wrote:

Thank you BBC. Finally a service that as a Mac user I can use on day one with the same features as my PC friends.

I'm surprised at the number of people who seem to think that because they pay a licence fee they automatically own the content.

  • 65.
  • At 09:35 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Sean Kelly wrote:

Reading the above comments many people seem to be confusing the purposes of the itunes and the iplayer services.

The license fee does not cover the ownership of BBC programming but the right to view the transmission of these programmes without subscription or adverts. The iPlayer is an extension of these rights to a 7 day catchup service.

The iPlayer service is a limited period rental service by streaming or DRM download on the PC. As a time limited service this is being covered by the license fee.

The iTunes content is a download to own service with DRM. Since this service is not the original transmission or a 7 day catchup the content is not covered by the license fee hence the £1.89 charge. The itunes content is just like the DVDs sold by the BBC. No-one expects these to be free under the license fee so why should the itunes programming.

What this deal shows is that the BBC is committed to full exploiting its content to help subsidise the licence fee. Hopefully in the future there will be a none itunes download to own service and in time DRM free.

Sean Kelly

Wow, you really got the Beeb haters unhappy.

Anyway, Personally I think this is a great idea, it's great that the BBC is trying to distribute it's content through a variety of new an interesting content portals, I can see why you choose iTunes as It has a massive user base.

I think people who complain that they pay for their license and they should get this for free, well think of this as a DVD, do you get BBC DVD's for free? no.

  • 67.
  • At 11:46 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Matt wrote:

It makes perfect business sense... as long as there is a market which will buy, and I'm sure there is. The price tag is perfect for me as I will just cherry pick my favourite episodes (and it's better value than a five minute pop video which also costs £1.89). One last thing - can we have Shaun The Sheep and old episodes of Grange Hill, please.

The programmes are being made available through BBC Worldwide, the Beeb's commercial arm, and so users throughout the world - as I understand it, will be able to view them, the same as the BBC has dedicated a YoTube channel for worldwide users. Not everyone in the UK has or needs TV license, so should they be made to pay? Of course. And so should everyone else.

The article announcing it claims Little Britain is available, but in fact is just a comedy song from the live tour show - at the moment. Shame.

This has inspired some thoughts about how the Mac iPlayer might be affected by today's announcement. Specifically, I reckon that iTunes might actually be the Mac iPlayer in disguise. I've just posted up an article to that effect - too long to paste in here, so here's the link:

Personally I think it's great that BBC Worldwide have got the BBC's content on the iTunes Store. After all, it's no different to a DVD box set purchase - except that I no longer need to go down to HMV. Thanks BBC Worldwide - keep up the good work!

  • 70.
  • At 08:25 AM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Jonathan Burson wrote:

I would love to watch BBC programs on iPlayer but can't for two reasons: 1 - I use a Mac; 2 - I no longer live in the UK.

I would even being willing to pay a "license" fee to do so as BBC programming is far superior to the American drivel we get in Japan.

I will be checking out iTunes tonight to see what I can get.

I have a suggestion for the Beeb - as can be seen above if the take up from UK residents is not huge why not give it to them for a reduced price whilst charging the higher price for others. A lot of people paying a little adds up to more than a lot of people not buying anything!

  • 71.
  • At 08:30 AM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Nick wrote:

This is a brilliant move! Living and working outside the UK I can only hope that more of the BBC's (and the other UK stations output) will be available on iTunes. I am only too happy to pay for quality content (not having to pay the licence fee).

  • 72.
  • At 01:48 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Clive Sinclair wrote:

Do the BBC not do this already? After all I can go into several high street stores and buy BBC Dvd of prsgrams such as Only Fools and Horses!

Even though I might have recorded a whole series onto Video.

They are doing it just in a different media form.

  • 73.
  • At 05:30 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • James wrote:

I'm an American, so I know I don't fit in your charter to provide BBC programming ... but are there plans to provide these programs to us on the other side of The Pond? There are several BBC shows where I've gotten hooked only halfway through the season, and would like to go back and pick up the first few episodes.

Any plans to distribute via iTunes in the US?


  • 74.
  • At 07:23 PM on 22 Feb 2008,
  • John wrote:

A couple of points pretty obvious from the comments above:

1) Has the BBC not noticed how many of the respondents are Mac users? We may be in a minority overall but a large (and increasing) percentage of home computer users prefer Macs to any form of Windows computers. And I would hazard a guess that the really keen user is just as likely to be on a Mac as a PC. Which makes the fact that we can only stream programmes for the foreseeable future rather annoying.

2) Having had a look at the iTunes download site it appears pretty obvious that the downloads are of poor quality and only suitable for an iPod. I would be interested in high quality (i.e. suitable for playing on a HiDef tv) but £1.89 for something only playable on a portable device? Come off it, BBC. We've already paid for these programmes once. All you're doing at this price is pushing people into the arms of pirate downloads.

Bring on downloable progs for the Mac via iPlayer, and give us decent quality and you might just have a success story on your hands instead of what is obviously a blatant rip-off.

I think that the iTunes service is ONLY on the iTunes UK site. So it is not yet world wide.

If you have a UK iTunes account then you can get the shows.

There is an expanding business out there on the web selling UK purchased iTunes gift cards to people in the rest of the world so they can buy from iTunes UK!

This is a two way business, I sell you a UK iTunes card number, and you sell me a USA Itunes card number, then you get UK stuff and I get USA stuff.

The free market works, time the rights people woke up to it.

  • 76.
  • At 05:58 PM on 29 Feb 2008,
  • steve wrote:

I pay my licence fee. I thought the bbc was public funded, hence no adverts.

I wonder who gets the money for this??? Is it for Mr Jobs new Porsche by any chance lol

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