BBC considering its own programme download platform

By | Published on Friday 9 March 2012


The BBC might launch its own download store, competing with Apple’s iTunes, though limited to TV programmes. Reports suggest that the proposed download platform – being developed via an internal venture called Project Barcelona – would complement the Beeb’s existing iPlayer service, allowing TV viewers the option to download new and old programmes at approx £1.89 a show, rather than access short-term programme streams.

According to paidContent, the Beeb itself – rather than its commercial spin-off BBC Worldwide – is developing the proposals to respond to ambitions within the Corporation to make as much new and archive BBC programming available for download as possible to licence payers in the UK. Currently only a fraction is available via BBC Worldwide’s deals with services like iTunes.

Such a move will be swamped with politics of course. First up, the Beeb will have to negotiate deals with any third parties with interests in its programmes, in particular the independent producers who make a chunk of the Corporation’s output.

There will also no doubt be questions asked about what it will cost to digitise the entire BBC archive, whether its right to re-charge licence fee payers for content their licence fee funded, and what impact the downloads will have on BBC Worldwide’s DVD business, which brings in extra revenue to subsidise the licence fee at BBC central.

Then there are the technical questions about how these downloads will work, what devices they will play on, and how users already downloading BBC shows to their iTunes player will be affected. And that’s before commercial media owners and digital operators file the customary moans about the BBC exploiting its size and state-funded archive.

All of which makes this an ambitious plan, but an interesting one nevertheless. I wonder if anyone has even thought about the licensing challenges involved in making classic ‘Top Of The Pops’ episodes available for download.