BBC’s New Streaming Video Service Takes Page Out Of iTunes Playbook

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Given its tremendous success over the past 12 years, it’s easy to forget that the whole iTunes concept was once a risky proposition people weren’t sure would succeed.

Well, leap forward to the present day, and even the U.K.’s much-lauded BBC is taking its plays from Apple’s playbook — by announcing that it is rethinking (or at least augmenting) its classic flat license fee by borrowing from the iTunes/Netflix model and charging users £5 ($8.25) to download their favorite shows.

The service, which will come into effect next year, won’t affect the BBC’s existing iPlayer (another example of the Beeb’s borrowing of an Apple creation), but will allow users to go back and download older shows — or whole series — from the BBC archive.

“It is a no-brainer,” a source at the BBC was quoted as saying. “At the moment viewers can only buy shows on DVD in somewhere like W H Smith.”

Some people have raised concerns about this mixed-model of television viewing, however, noting that it raises questions about what the enforced license fee should actually cover.

Whichever side of the fence you come down on, it’s another example of how Apple’s innovation continues to disrupt established organizations — and a further illustration of why Apple’s eagerly awaited TV could really shake things up.

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  • kbsez

    But the real question is: Will it be available in the US?? I’d gladly pay for access to the BBC iPlayer and pay a premium for it.

  • sheppo

    But the real question is: Will it be available in the US?? I’d gladly pay for access to the BBC iPlayer and pay a premium for it.

    this isn’t iPlayer – which allows most of the recent programming to be available for a week or so (sometimes more for whole-series catch up). A flat £5 subscription would cover box sets I would imagine, in a similar way to other subscription services such as Netflix, Love Film, Wuaki – all of which already offer some BBC content in one form or another.

    As for this article, I know it’s CoM and all, but come on guys.
    1) iPlayer wasn’t the first device with a i in its name, neither was the iPod
    2) the monthly flat-rate service that Netflix offers isn’t anything like Apple offers – Apple doesn’t offer any subscription service
    3) The “iTunes concept” (digitally purchasing music) wasn’t pioneered by Apple

    Please try to keep journalism in the realms of journalism and not story-telling.

  • Luke Dormehl

    Re: Sheppo.
    1)I realize that there were other trademarks involving “i” prior to Apple, but I genuinely find it hard to believe that so many companies (it’s not just the Beeb) would be jumping on the i bandwagon were it not for Apple’s success. Also, iMac preceded iPod.
    2) The BBC is asking you to pay to download individual episodes. How is that not like iTunes?
    3) This is more or less the same as point 1. Yes, other companies did it first. Just like other companies created versions of all of Apple’s most successful products before Apple (going back to the GUI). The point is that Apple popularized — and arguably perfected — them.

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Apple Revolution, published by Random House, and is currently writing a book about algorithms for Random House/Penguin to be published in 2014. He also covers the digital humanities for Fast Company. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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