BBC Worldwide To Distribute Shows Through iTunes; In UK Only

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BBC’s commercial arm will start distributing shows through Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iTunes by next week, reports The Register, citing sources. The launch will happen on Tuesday, and BBC Worldwide’s digital media director Simon Danker has contacted the BBC’s third party production partners to inform them of the new distribution channel. No details of pricing and which shows will show up on iTunes.

Update 1: WSJ also reports citing sources: Initially only about 10 different drama and comedy shows will be sold on iTunes, which doesn’t currently have any TV shows from British studios, the person said. It isn’t clear which shows will be available.

It is interesting that this deal is only for UK, and will be paid, when UK users can stream/download the same shows online on BBC’s website for free. Not sure why anyone would pay then, unless the archives are deeper.

Update 2: An FT story explains it better: The shows will be a mixture of recently aired shows that are no longer available free on the separate BBC iPlayer, and programs from the BBC archives. This could mean paid downloads of BBC programs are available on iTunes months before the launch of Project Kangaroo, the BBC’s on-demand streaming and download partnership with ITV (LSE: ITV) and Channel 4, which is due later this year.

Update 3: News confirmed; shows online here. Episodes will cost £1.89, will come in the higher-quality H.264 codec, without DRM. Register: “BBC Worldwide already has a US distribution deal with Amazon’s (NSDQ: AMZN) Unbox download service, where episodes cost $1.99 each – about £1.”

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About time BBC and Apple sorted themselves out.
I can watch many BBC TV programs or listen to almost any Radio 4 program on my PC for free, but the ipod touch cannot access any of this material. The UK market may be small, but why does Apple want to seriously damage the potential of its otherwise excellent ipod touch in the UK by blocking Real Player streaming? A wireless device in the UK that cannot access the excellent online content of the BBC is pointless.

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