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BBC mulls subs model for int’l Store

BBC Store, the forthcoming electronic sell-through service from BBC Worldwide, will likely be rolled out internationally sometime after its UK launch next year, with the BBC’s commercial arm mulling whether to adopt a subscription or a transactional model for the international service.

Marcus ArthurSpeaking at TBI parent Informa’s Digital TV Summit in London this morning, Marcus Arthur, president, UK and ANZ, BBC Worldwide said a subscription model was one option that the organisation was considering for a future international rollout.

“We could make it a subscription service. When we go overseas we have a choice,” he said.

Arthur said the BBC’s existing non-linear international service, the Global iPlayer, had been launched as a trial and had “limited traction”.

He said BBC Store was “just another step on our roadmap to digital innovation”.

“We are looking how to modernise that [Global iPlayer] with the platform we are building here. We will role it out. But it is important to get it right. Just now we are concentrating on getting it right here [in the UK] and we will do that first,” Arthur told conference attendees.

Speaking to Digital TV Europe on the sidelines of the event, Arthur said BBC Worldwide would “choose one model” for the international rollout of the service.

Arthur said the Global iPlayer, which is present in Australia and currently has about 13,000 subscribers, would be kept ticking over until a decision was taken on how to launch the new platform.

He said that the rollout of channel brands BBC Earth, BBC First and BBC Brit remained at the core of BBC Worldwide’s international strategy, but that the rollout of a digital platform would be considered on a territory-by-territory basis. “We have a rollout strategy for those [channels] globally but we will prioritise digital innovation where we think we can win,” he told TBI sister publication Digital TV Europe.

Arthur earlier told conference attendees that BBC Store will be launched in the UK next year, and “will sit inside and alongside BBC iPlayer”, the BBC’s popular catch-up streaming and download service.

Arthur said that BBC Store will provide an “opportunity to buy programmes from the BBC post the 30-day window” on iPlayer. He said that the BBC’s UK viewers were frustrated with the lack of availability of content beyond the 30-day window and lack of access to older archive content. BBC Store would change that, he said.

“If you are on BBC iPlayer and you find the programme we will serve up programmes similar to it or previous series and you will be able to buy them,” said Arthur.

BBC Store will initially be launched as a standalone product, but Arthur said it would be integrated with BBC iPlayer over time. Viewers using BBC iPlayer will be given an opportunity to purchase content, with this clearly identified as taking them into a commercial environment, when the free catch-up window expires. They will then be able to both purchase archive programmes from BBC Store and download free catch-up content from BBC iPlayer and store them in the same digital locker for viewing across “virtually all platforms”.

Arthur said the thinking behind BBC Store reflected the fact that the BBC “needs to have a direct route to market”.

“The choice we’ve made is to have our own route to market and that’s partly because we are licence fee-funded and a subscription route will not work in the UK,” he said.

Arthur said BBC Store would “offer the most comprehensive collection of BBC content ever”. He said the service would be simple and easy to use and that “it would grow the overall market” rather than cannibalise the existing DVD sales business.

“It will be a sizable chunk [of the consumer business] going forward and will give us a direct relationship with the consumer,” said Arthur. He said BBC Store is expected to “more than double our EST business”, currently based on sales via iTunes and Amazon, because the consumer will have greater choice.