The BBC’s international iPlayer iPad app will cost less than $10 (£6.13) a month when it launches later this year, according to director general Mark Thompson.
He said the global version of the corporation’s online catch-up service for iPads will launch “definitely this year”, adding that it will cost, “a small number of dollars per month, definitely fewer than 10”. The international iPlayer iPad app will also give subscribers access to BBC archive programming.
Speaking at the FT Digital Media & Broadcasting conference in London on Wednesday, Thompson added: “We’re exploring internationally what the right pricing and models are … the most important thing is the consumer pricing is right.”
He said that the iPlayer app allows the BBC to “sell directly to consumers” without shows being rebranded or reformated, which often happens when UK shows are bought by international broadcasters.
When asked what effect the iPlayer’s international launch will have on the business model of the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, Thompson said the corporation is following in Hollywood’s footsteps and “looking at a series of windows” for shows, to “optimise value across that lifecycle”.
International rights windows for films and TV shows typically mean they become available first on DVD and broadcast and online pay-per-view services, followed by subscription and free-to-air TV.
He also said he wants broadcasters, mobile phone companies and the UK government to get together to create a “road map” for mobile television.
“I believe that there’s a strong case for the UK’s broadcasters, mobile phone operators, Ofcom and government to come together to develop a roadmap for the introduction of mobile TV in this country,” Thompson added.
“This would be complementary to the availability of TV content on demand, whether streamed or cached on the device and would enable the public to access time-critical content – news, major sports events and so on – wherever they are.”
Speaking afterwards, he said no meetings are planned but he believes the process should be kickstarted.
Thompson added that confounding convergence predictions made five years ago, TV viewing has actually increased over the period.
In addition, in January 162m programmes – an average of six per household – were downloaded via the iPlayer in the UK.
“The greatest month-on-month growth now is not on PCs or cable TVs but on iPads, iPhones, other smartphones and games consoles.”
Thompson added: “People have always watched less TV as they move through adolescence and early adulthood with their consumption increasing thereafter with age.”
But he warned that “there’s good evidence that this dip is becoming sharper”.
His figures showed viewers born in the 1960s and 1970s when they were aged 10 watched around 21 hours a week of television for total television, compared with 16 hours a week for those born in 1995.
Thompson said: “The question, which we don’t have an answer to yet, is whether the even younger cohorts – those who are growing up in a completely digital world – will follow this pattern and return to these very high levels of viewing as they grow older. Or, whether there will be a permanent shift downwards in future consumption.”
He reiterated that the “BBC will never retreat from delivering news online”.
Thompson ruled out the corporation launching a social network but said it was in conversations with Facebook and said that YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) has been a great environment for “sampling” and “marketing” of BBC programming.
He warned that simplicity will be key, adding “although lots of televisions are being produced with IPTV”, “virtually no one plugs them in … no one gets to page 26 or whatever of the instruction manual!”.
Thompson concluded: “The challenge for us now … is to concentrate on the quality, value and memorability of our content, not just in television but across our services.
“Science on BBC1 with Bang Goes the Theory, last week’s Newsnight special on Libya, the Proms which last year reached 18 million people in the UK on BBC television over the season. That’s our direction of travel.”
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.