Summary:

Today, the BBC announced plans to create a global version of its iPlayer application for iPads, which may be available first in the U.S. on a subscription basis. For British television fans outside the UK tracking their favorite shows, this is very good news indeed.

cat ipad stand

For those outside Britain who’ve longed for a taste of the BBC’s iPlayer VOD service and can’t afford a plane ticket, this is a most excellent day. The Financial Times reports that the BBC is developing an iPad edition of iPlayer for users outside the UK, with the U.S. likely to be the first test market. In related news: I have to get an iPad now.

When the app will be released, what it might cost and what content might be available haven’t been announced yet, but the iPad app would be available on a subscription basis similar to Hulu Plus (though BBC programming runs ad-free). BBC.com Managing Director Luke Bradley-Jones is quoted as saying the reason for the iPad-exclusive launch is that “It provides such potential to develop a truly interactive video-on-demand service, and also maps pretty nicely on to our core target audience for the service.”

AppleInsider points out this decision is motivated by restrictions the BBC faces operating in the UK, including a freeze on TV license fees. Bradley-Jones is quoted as saying: “There’s a general acknowledgment in the world of VOD that there needs to be a hybrid business model, a combination of subscriptions, download to own and pay per view. I believe it’s the way that the Global iPlayer will go in the medium term.” While British residents get free access to iPlayer online, the program is currently supported by a “colour TV” license which costs $227 a year.

When I was in England two years ago, I loved using iPlayer, which offered ad-free high-quality content to anyone with a UK IP address. The quality of that user experience alone has me excited about any future products.

In addition, the BBC has shown a generally more open approach to global distribution of its content. Just as one example: Flagship series Doctor Who has dramatically tightened up the gaps between when episodes air in the U.K. versus the U.S., going from months to, this Christmas, a matter of hours. And in Australia this April, fans were even able to watch a new episode online two days in advance of its broadcast premiere.

These signs all point to global iPlayer subscribers potentially getting full access to the same content those in the UK are watching, which means this might be the best thing to happen to international fans of British television since BitTorrent.

Picture courtesy of Flickr user Veronica Belmont.

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