The BBC's iPlayer on-demand service is hugely popular in the UK, offering 30-day catch-up of programmes recently broadcast across its TV and radio services, along with other highlights from its vast library of content. The BBC launched an international version of iPlayer in 2011, but the service was shut down earlier this year, with the promise of 'new digital services' to come.
Today, the BBC's Director-General, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, outlined plans to launch its first international video service since the closure of the Global iPlayer. Politico Media reports that Lord Hall, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference, said the corporation is planning a 'Netflix-style' video streaming service for the United States.
The aim of the new service will be to generate additional revenue from the BBC's massive back-catalog of programming. While many of its most popular shows are already picked up by international networks, and many more are sold around the world on DVD and Blu-Ray, the BBC has plenty of other content that isn't widely available, but which it believes people still want to enjoy.
The BBC is under pressure to generate more funding from commercial revenues, as its Royal Charter comes under government review. The BBC has taken on new spending responsibilities - including funding for Welsh-language channel S4C, and the World Service, which was previously paid for by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - at a time when its domestic TV license fee revenues have been frozen.
It's not clear what kind of revenue the BBC expects to generate from its new US streaming service, nor indeed how much it will cost - either to build, or to use (although the 'Netflix-style' terminology certainly hints at a low-cost monthly subscription). But if its plans come together, the US service may well pave the way for the BBC to roll out similar offerings in other parts of the world.
Source: Politico Media