The BBC’s iPlayer, British Broadcasting Company’s online video service, is set to start streaming beyond UK borders next year. Since the BBC’s content is financed by British citizens’ television licensing fees, the service has been free in the UK since its debut in 2007. Of course, this expansion of the BBC iPlayer will come at a price for the overseas audience.
International viewers will be required to pay a subscription fee to access video, just like Hulu and Netflix’s current models. Right now the BBC plans to expand its iPad app to American audiences first, before a worldwide rollout. No specific timeframe or additional platform information is available at this time.
The BBC isn’t the only one expanding its horizons. After licensing issues tanked a UK and Ireland rollout of Hulu this year, the company is once again eying viewers beyond the United States. While the streaming video hub was created with capital from Disney, Fox and NBC, it operates as a separate company. Hulu’s CEO Jason Kilar recently told The Wall Street Journal that it intends to capitalize on worldwide markets that haven’t been tapped yet. While no specifics are available, you can bet aggressive moves by Netflix, Apple, Amazon and the like will motivate Hulu to grab as many eyeballs as it can in the near future.
Licensing is a problem for just about every online video service. Most adopt a day-after or in some cases month-after policy, allowing television networks to keep exclusive premiers. There are exceptions: recent rumors say Netflix is willing to pay $1 million to stream new in-season episodes. It’s not known how this will work when streaming services cross international borders, where licensing and broadcast rights mean shows sometimes appear weeks, months or years after they do in their home country.
The landscape of production-quality online video has changed rapidly in the last three years. The youngest and most ambitious player is Netflix, whose transition from a disk-based subscription model to an online streaming powerhouse has been rapid. The company recently introduced cheap streaming-only plans to the U.S. and Canada, giving a clear indication of where they believe the market is heading. And who would argue with them: according to Read Write Web, Netflix’s streaming traffic accounts for a full fifth of the peak internet usage in the U.S. Their ever-expanding library and multi-platform approach seems so be working. You can now stream Netflix videos on every game console and most Apple products, along with a growing number of internet-connected TVs and set-top boxes.
In contrast, Hulu, the BBC, and Amazon seem to be playing catch-up. Hulu’s Plus subscription service began to offer mobile streaming and premium content this year, but was met with tepid enthusiasm due to its advertising, modest content bump and price tag. Hulu dropped the price to $7.99 a few weeks ago. Additionally, Hulu’s still missing content from CBS (the only major American network not onboard) and various cable channels, and the company continues to fight attempts to view its web content on unapproved mobile and set-top platforms.
Amazon makes a huge variety of movies and TV shows available on-demand, but there’s still no “all you can eat” subscription and accessing the content on anything but a full-sized computer is rather cumbersome if not impossible. The BBC has aggressively expanded its service onto game systems and Apple products, much like Netflix, but it remains to be seen if worldwide audiences are willing to pay for the privilege.
While worldwide expansion of streaming services might mean TV enthusiasts can put their torrents and proxies away, it’s clear that the search for a single service with timely delivery of all your favorite shows isn’t likely to end soon.
Source: Variety, Mashable