The BBC has confirmed plans to make its on-demand video iPlayer available outside the U.K. via a subscription iPad app sometime in the middle of 2011. No pricing or specific markets have been confirmed, but the U.S. would be a likely target for the early launches of the English-language service, given the popularity of shows like Torchwood and Top Gear on BBC America.
"We're going to be adopting a pure paid subscription model for the global iPlayer for launch," said Luke Bradley-Jones, managing director of BBC.com, according to the prepared text of a speech he delivered at the Digital TV Summit 2010 in London this week. "We will also offer advertisers the chance to partner with us on the 'free' areas of the service. We're also planning for the global iPlayer to initially launch just on the iPad platform, as it provides such potential to develop a truly interactive video-on-demand service-and that also maps pretty nicely onto our core target audience for the service."
BBC's iPlayer has already proved incredibly popular in the U.K. Launched in December 2007, usage nearly doubled from 61.5 million plays in January 2009 to 120.3 in January 2010. It has since increased from 123 million plays in May 2010 before rising to 138 million in October, remarkable numbers for a country with only 9.5 million broadband subscribers in 2010.
The service has only been available up to now in the U.K., but the launch of a global player could allow its commercial arm BBC Worldwide to significantly expand the reach of its programming in the U.S., where its fare has long been popular on PBS, BBC America and Discovery, though existing deals for its content would affect online distribution in the U.S. and other markets.