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Cable networks blocking BBC’s U.S. iPlayer aims

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The BBC is extending the 12-month trial of its pay-for overseas iPlayer, having not yet cracked the big nut of U.S. roll-out.

paidContent understands U.S. cable networks are spooked that a U.S. iPlayer would hurt their TV service because it would carry shows aired by the BBC America linear channel, which they already carry to customers.

They have threatened to de-list BBC America from their TV services if iPlayer launches. That has forced BBC Worldwide to choose between the two big brands for its U.S. strategy. BBC America, which, unlike iPlayer, already exists in the States, has won out. In U.S. terms, it does not have a large audience footprint, but is nevertheless the BBC’s biggest U.S.-facing brand.

“Most of us operating in the U.S. are at the behest of Time Warner and Comcast,” BBC Worldwide advertising EVP Chris Dobson said about video advertising, though not specifically on the iPlayer issue, during a Beet TV panel discussion on Friday. “We shouldn’t believe they will not have a play in this space.”

A BBC Worldwide spokesperson told paidContent:

“Global iPlayer was set up as a 12-month trial to allow us to assess the product, consumer demand in different markets and the content mix. We have extended the trial, with the full support of the BBC Trust, until Autumn this year.

“Although western Europe launched in July last year, Australia and Canada came on board later in 2011, as did the move to other Apple platforms. And so, by extending the trial, it allows us to capture more data out of the iPlayer model.”

BBC Worldwide has long wanted to offer BBC and other programming like Doctor Who and Top Gear as paid VOD.

It is already selling shows through iTunes Store and other syndicated outlets, but last summer launched a BBC-branded, iPad-only subscription iPlayer in 18 European markets, followed by Canada and Australia.

Changes to the proposition are likely to be made following trial learnings.

Broadly, BBC Worldwide wants to continue offering paid VOD via both syndicated and own-brand channels.

Cable company power has also got in the way of BBC Worldwide making its BBC World News TV channel available for a la carte paid U.S. streaming. Now BBC Worldwide is using the cover of a Livestation bouquet to go to America, priced $4.99 per month alongside Sky News, France 24 and Al Jazeera English.

4 Responses to “Cable networks blocking BBC’s U.S. iPlayer aims”

  1. Dr Who Fan

    The problem – BBC America cuts programming to air commercials that pay for content. I would much rather pay a subscription and get the original uncut version. For example, BBC America cuts each Dr Who episode by 14–16 minutes. Every little detail is critical for Dr Who. The cut versions barely make sense. PLEASE break the commercial model and let me choose what I want to watch and the way I want to watch it.

  2. Suzanne W.

    Every time I read an article references American cable companies, I hate them more. I haven’t had a cable subscription in years because of their vile business model, forcing me to buy hundreds of unwanted channels just to get the few I want. They may have the clout now to block the American version if the iPlayer, but the tide is turning. Cable giants will live to regret putting short-term profits above their customers’ desires, as we all find other ways to access content we want, when we want and from where we want it.

      • Quentin

        The BBC should ignore the US Cable companies and deal direct with the US customer. I for one would leap at getting iPlayer especially if the can provide a client for my Xbox or AppleTV. The sooner I can cut the cable company the better.