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This article was published on December 6, 2011

The BBC’s global iPlayer expands to iPhone and iPod Touch [Updated]

The BBC’s global iPlayer expands to iPhone and iPod Touch [Updated]
Paul Sawers
Story by

Paul Sawers

Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.

Update: The app is now available for iPhone and iPod Touch owners; you can download it here.

Five months after BBC Worldwide launched its global iPlayer app to 11 Western European countries on iPad, the commercial arm of the UK broadcaster has announced that it’s making the app available on iPhone and iPod Touch too.

We reported last week that the global BBC iPlayer app was launching in Canada, making it the sixteenth territory added to its pilot launch following Australia in September and Scandinavia a month later.

The global BBC iPlayer app is a Video-on-Demand (VoD) pilot subscription service that differs from the UK version of iPlayer, in that it gives international users access to an extensive archive of classic and contemporary British TV programmes. The UK iPlayer service is more geared towards catch-up TV, with a 30-day window to watch following the initial broadcast.

The global iPlayer app will be made available on iPhone and iPod Touch from this Thursday (8th December), and will reach millions more viewers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

“The global BBC iPlayer has seen great growth since the pilot first launched in July – both in terms of geographical expansion and technological developments”, says John Smith, Chief Executive of BBC Worldwid. “Moving to iPhone and iPod Touch allows us to take the service to a significant new potential audience and deliver fantastic programme content from the BBC and the UK’s creative industry.”

In a keynote speech to the Digital TV Summit this morning, Jana Bennett, President Worldwide Networks and Global BBC iPlayer, said:

“This platform extension shows how Global iPlayer isn’t just about moving TV to tablet devices, it’s also about a mobile strategy – about truly getting TV everywhere in a way that it hasn’t been before. We also want the global BBC iPlayer to be truly representative of the whole gamut of British creative output, to represent everything that is great about British content – not just the Best of British TV but the Best of British Culture.”

First programme acquisitions for global BBC iPlayer

Bennett’s speech was also the first time a review had been publicly given of the first six months of the pilot service, and she also confirmed the company’s first external programme acquisitions for the global BBC iPlayer. Independent programme distributor DRG will supply a host of iconic British TV shows to debut on the global iPlayer service in early 2012, alongside titles from the BBC catalogue.

Describing BBC Worldwide’s commercial on-demand service as representing “the Best of British culture”, Bennett unveiled a new programme slate from DRG including Peep Show; Shameless and Black Books. Also being included are Green Wing and Father Ted, which will be available from January in some territories.

The editorial curation on the global BBC iPlayer was a major theme of Bennett’s talk, and she discussed the process of tapping into the “world’s biggest library of audiovisual content” – the BBC catalogue. In reference to this “treasure trove” Bennett reiterated BBC Worldwide’s dedication to expanding the appeal of the global BBC iPlayer through specially created collections of programmes.

She highlighted a number of other editorial developments for the pilot service:

  • New genre categories: In January, the genre offering of the global BBC iPlayer will be expanded with two new categories, ‘Music’ and ‘Arts and Culture’. ‘Arts and Culture’ will be home to classic strands such as Timewatch and Omnibus, as well as contemporary shows like The Narnia Code and The Mathematics of Chaos.
  • Programme premiere: The addition of Something Special to the Children’s category will mark the first time the programme has been seen outside the UK. Fronted by the inimitable Justin Fletcher (Jollywobbles, Gigglebiz), the show is aimed at preschoolers with learning difficulties and offers teachers, parents and carers a range of approaches to develop language and communication skills.
  • Radio: The global BBC IPlayer is also planning to add selected speech programmes from BBC radio.

In her speech, Bennett shared findings about consumer usage across different markets, and shared BBC Worldwide’s own learnings from attempting to monetise its catalogue of programmes. In contrast to the Pareto Principle – the theory that suggests 80% of revenues will stem from the top 20% of content – she noted that:

  • An unexpected 35% of viewers are watching more than one programme per visit
  • 25% go on to browse the app after watching a programme
  • On average, 75% of subscribers access the app each day

Bennett added:

“VOD promises to break the 80:20 rule by creating availability and visibility of long tail content, enabling consumers to view (and therefore monetise) shows they would otherwise have simply been lying dormant.”

Jana Bennett delivered the Digital Keynote address at the Digital TV Summit earlier today, held at the Doubletree Hilton in London.

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