BBC to launch iPlayer streamed video worldwide

The BBC has confirmed that it is to launch its iPlayer streaming video service internationally – and possibly for free.

BBC iPlayer – which is superb, by the way – allows viewers to watch live BBC television, listen to the radio and catch up on the last seven days’ programming for all ten TV channels and a dozen radio channels. Currently, only some radio content is available internationally – and with the World Service losing its government funding, some observers are fearful for its future.

Because the BBC is funded by license payments rather than advertising, iPlayer has in the past been limited to UK IP addresses. But the BBC Trust has now given approval for the service to be rolled out internationally, bringing succor and Gardeners World to ex-pats across the globe.

“Our research has shown there is an international audience of British TV fans that are frequently watching TV online – and we are excited about rolling out our iPlayer VOD service to meet and grow this demand,” Luke Bradley-Jones, MD of Global iPlayer, told the Daily Telegraph.

“We strongly believe the Global iPlayer is going to offer an excellent opportunity for the UK’s creative industry to directly reach much sought after digital audiences and revenue streams around the world.”

Many shows, including Top Gear and Doctor Who, have found a large following outside the UK – mostly from people who are illegally file sharing.

John Smith, chief executive of BBC Worldwide, said he had not yet decided whether to fund the service through advertising or as a pay-per-view service with fees of up to $10 per show – although most would cost a great deal less. A subscription model wasn’t mentioned, but must presumably also be under consideration.

The launch is expected next year.