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BBC iPlayer to Go Global - But What a Price?

David Gilbert


BBC iPlayer to Go Global - But at What Price?

The unavailability of the BBC iPlayer to anyone outside the UK in a bugbear for many, but now it seems as if the Beeb is going to follow in the footsteps of Channel 4 and open up its online borders for all to enter.

C4’s 4OD service has been available to viewers around the globe for the past year and now the BBC is taking similar steps. The difference however is the BBC has indicated it will look for a fee before allowing overseas viewers access its video-on-demand service.

This is going to be a sticking point for a lot of people considering the 4OD service is free through the C4 website. BBC Worldwide chief executive John Smith told the Telegraph that the BBC iPlayer will have an international version next year. However there has been no official statement from the BBC Trust.

There is very little doubt that the iPlayer would have a significant global audience from ex-pats looking to catch up on EastEnders, to global fans of unique BBC programmes such as Doctor Who and even MasterChef. When speaking about the potential service, Smith talked about “opening up a new revenue stream for the entire UK production industry, alongside sales to traditional broadcasters."

From online newspapers to fee-based music subscription services, companies have found it hard to strike the right balance between offering their online content for free, on a pay-per-view basis or a subscription service. This is obviously something the BBC will be looking at seriously – especially since the Government has frozen the level of the BBC licence fee.

Source: Telegraph


November 8, 2010, 11:04 pm

I think the BBC should try and turn a profit out of this! Possibly not for British passport holders and not for all programs but why not launch a subscription based service for some of the more saleable programs such as TopGear? Sound.


November 8, 2010, 11:17 pm

Living in Ireland, I'd happily pay for access. I already pay for a proxy to access it, but I'd rather give the money to the Beeb.

Tim Sutton

November 8, 2010, 11:31 pm

Good idea.

I can't see any possible objection for charging anyone who does not have a TV license for using the iPlayer. In the UK or abroad.

Roy Bean

November 9, 2010, 12:03 am

I work abroad for several months a year and it has always annoyed me that I can't get iPlayer when I'm away. However if I have to pay for this service when I am already paying the license fee I'll not bother with it. Carry on using the pvr and watch when I get home.

As for as everyone else in the world - sure, if they want to watch BBC programmes then they should pay a fee, just as we have to.


November 9, 2010, 12:11 am

Presumably you're talking about television shows over iPlayer? As far as I know BBC radio through iPlayer is already available worldwide.


November 9, 2010, 12:12 am

4oD shows advertisements, so they're not a direct comparison.

I'm liking the idea, I just hope the Beeb provides the pricing options to cater for occasional users and TV addicts alike.

Connor Williams

November 9, 2010, 12:13 am

The reason why C4 can do it for free is because they (constantly) show adverts before, during and after the show you are watching. This means regardless of whether you are watching from the UK or abroad, they still get paid for showing the advert.

The BBC on the other hand thankfully never show adverts anywhere on iPlayer, as the money comes from the licence fee. But, obviously if you live outside the UK you dont pay the licence fee, so if they let you access iPlayer it's only right that they charge you for it.


November 9, 2010, 12:42 am

I don't think 4OD is available globally - well, I can't get it in France and it says this in their FAQ: "Rights agreements mean that our 4oD service is only available in the UK and the Republic of Ireland"

Dark of Day

November 9, 2010, 2:06 am

The one thing I missed about the uk while living in Melbourne for a year was the iplayer. I'll pay for it gladly if it provides the full/same service. Will be gutted if it were to exclude sports coverage because of some tedious distribution thing.

Chris Hamer

November 9, 2010, 4:41 am

The 4OD service picture quality is awful compared to the iplayer. Its all pixilated etc when full screen :p I do think they should charge for people outside the UK but maybe the UK license payers could have an account or something so we can access it from anywhere.


November 9, 2010, 6:01 am

I've been wondering for a while why they (iPlayer) can't have some "British abroad" log-in type page where you input your license number and home address as a "username" and "password" to get access to iPlayer...

"Proves" that you are a Brit and that you have paid the license fee...


November 9, 2010, 1:02 pm

I think it's a fantastic and long overdue idea by the BBC. I would not expect the British public to foot the bill. Countries pay for the BBC already licenses its TV shows to other countries, why not its core service too?

Living the other side of the planet I get access via a UK proxy, but would gladly pay for it if it was offered.

Hamish Campbell

November 9, 2010, 1:16 pm

From their faq:

Can I watch 4oD in another country?

Rights agreements mean that our 4oD service is only available in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, (although C4 does not always have rights for programmes in ROI). Even if you are a citizen of the UK or ROI you cannot access the service from abroad


November 9, 2010, 2:11 pm

It's an interesting idea about having an account to log into with license number etc - but I suspect that the moment they do that it would become uncontrolled and people all over the world would get hold of accounts somehow...

Also - I suspect that the way third party content is licensed it's only licensed to be consumed in the UK for free...

An account with a credit card paying a monthly subscription or pay per view would ensure no sharing of account details with the world.

Even for brits going on holiday - sounds to me that if people are so keen on keeping up with eastenders while they are away and the BBC has a service that will do it - why not pay an additional fee whilst abroad to do so ... it's added value and if I were a business providing that service I'd be charging you a premium for it too ;)

If it brings additional revenue to the BBC and helps it keep making some of the best programming available I'm all for it :)


November 9, 2010, 2:41 pm

Yep, I'm in Kenya and I'd pay for it if it was reasonably priced


November 9, 2010, 2:43 pm

Wonderful news! I'm not a UK citizen and ever since I first heard about the iPlayer I have wanted to be able to (lawfully) use it. I would gladly pay for it.

Here's hoping that more cyberspace "borders" fall!


November 9, 2010, 2:45 pm

A great idea. If the beeb are being squeezed to take on World Service and the license fee is frozen for 6 years then them looking to increase their revenue would be a good idea. Maybe they have seen their DVD sales decline due to piracy and think this would be a good way to make up the short fall?


November 9, 2010, 4:18 pm

The BBC is a pioneer in modern day broadcasting, but this challenging its business model more and more.

As BBC content becomes available through the BBC iPlayer for an overseas audience together with some kind of revenue generation (charging for content and/or advertising - the BBC TV World Service and the BBC website for overseas visitors already has adverts), and as the internet becomes more widely used as a delivery platform, its likely that a significant percentage of its revenue will come from this service.

What's wrong with that? Depending on your point of view, nothing, except that other UK broadcasting services will eventually be able to successfully argue that the BBC is now a commercial service and that the licence fee should be abolished - it can only be a matter of time.

...and then we'll have the BBC competing even more with the likes of ITV to appeal to the lowest common denominator for its slice of the commercial pie, and loose any quality of programming it currently still retains.


November 9, 2010, 5:41 pm

@Dark of Day - not 100% on this but I think there are restrictions to at least some sport. Match of the Day for example is never on iPlayer (at least not when I check) which I suspect is something Sky plays a part in.

Tony Gentry

November 9, 2010, 5:47 pm

In principle I'm all for the BBC to extend it's audience base, and an appropriate fee being levied. However, it's my understanding that the BBC already sell premium shows to overseas broadcasters, so selling direct may well impact this existing revenue stream.


November 10, 2010, 12:05 am

Flamin about time but hey if it Ps-off the Murdochs all well and good. I only say that because of their constant whining about the Beeb when they are SOOO advantaged thanks to their political friends.

The Beeb already make money from programmes because they are so flamin good that they sell themselves - as can be seen from comments herein from foreign viewers. Their latest blockbuster is Strictly Come Dancing: Shown in 75 countries (Albania-->India-->USA-->Vietnam-->Zealand)!

Good move.


November 10, 2010, 5:30 am

@Jones the BBC it seems are not only restricted from having "chilling ambitions" (aka let the Murdochs make loads of money) but they are NOT allowed to criticise or challenge the Murdochs' own "chilling ambitions":

"Mark Thompson, the BBC's director-general, was forced to apologise to the corporation's regulator last month over his decision to join a group of media companies who signed a letter criticising Rupert Murdoch, it emerged today.

"The BBC Trust, led by Sir Michael Lyons, "expressed concern" about whether it was "appropriate" for Thompson to sign the controversial letter, which called on ministers to intervene in News Corporation's proposed £8bn buyout of BSkyB."


Is it any wonder the BBC agreed a hasty 6-year 'freeze' to the licence fee.

So I am off to write an e-mail to Sir Michael Lyons and the rest of the Trustees, given that I have been a strong advocate of the BBC standing up for itself on behalf of us tv licence fee payers who appreciate quality and innovation (iPlayer)for a knock-down 'subscrption' of £145.50/year rather than £500/year for a load of crap.


November 10, 2010, 8:48 am

I subscribe to identity cloaker, which uses proxy's, to get iplayer abroad and wish I could just type in my licence number or have some way of logging in to get iplayer. I live by myself so the licence fee is still paid when I'm not there, hmm stop paying licence fee?.

Jim McSlim

November 10, 2010, 8:53 am

Having gotten addicted to iPlayer when I was last living in the UK I only hope this definitely happens. For those of us in Australia however, I wonder what the performance will be like? Perhaps they will setup local POPs in key regional markets (e.g. anywhere with alot of British expats!) Also, I can imagine that there will be the inevitable regional content restrictions; here in Oz Top Gear is shown on a commercial station... I would assume that the BBC would not compromise its lucrative rights fee for such key programs just for the benefit of international iPlayer subscribers.


November 10, 2010, 4:33 pm

I think that anyone wanting to watch the BBC abroad should pay the licence fee, just like we have to do in the UK.


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