The video on demand application is the first time the BBC has allowed its archive to be accessed by audiences in Western Europe. The iPlayer app is, however, a totally new approach to the service already offered to UK viewers.
The app, which can be downloaded for free from iTunes, allows users to subscribe to the global iPlayer service for either €6.99 per month or €49.99 per year. Subscribers have access today to some 1,500 hours of programming, with a further 100 hours being added every month. Shows can be steamed or downloaded for future viewing - the app allows users to build a personal library on their iPad.
The pilot project is being rolled out exclusively on iPad, but will be extended to other hardware in future. Jana Bennett, president of BBC Worldwide networks and global iPlayer, says that Western Europeans tend to be early adapters and, with an estimated two million British nationals living in the eleven markets, she believes there is an appetite for the programmes on offer.
The app allows users to select programmes by genre or popularity, but also to browse alphabetical listings of shows and search for specific programmes, actors or presenters. Already available are classic comedies Fawlty Towers and Only Fools and Horses, as well as more contemporary fare such as In The Thick Of It and The Mighty Boosh. Documentaries by the likes of David Attenborough, Simon Schama and Bruce Parry sit alongside entertainment programmes such as Top Gear. And the BBC’s much admired drama series, including Pride and Prejudice, Sherlock and classics like Edge of Darkness are also available. Current content also includes music programmes and shows for children.
Luke Bradley-Jones, managing director of BBC.com, says that the application is a “premium but niche proposition” aimed at what he calls “super fans” of British culture. Speaking to Delano at the launch in London on Wednesday, Bennett said that the desire is to eventually create an application that features the very best of British TV and maybe even film, depending on rights in different territories. But she was adamant that although the available content will grow, the iPlayer will not become a vast vault of BBC archive material. “It is an editorialised product, not a shop,” she says.
Indeed, the app is aimed at allowing users to discover programmes they may have missed out on by living abroad. The intuitive and easy-to-use app includes a “similar shows” feature and also provides additional information on BBC stars such as David Walliams and David Tennant. “We want to maintain the serendipity of discovery,” says Bennett.