I'm a huge fan of the BBC iPlayer app for iPad. What with two young children and an addiction to Call of Duty, it's not often I get time to sit down and watch some of my favorite TV shows — but having iPlayer on my iPad means I can catch up wherever I want, whenever I want. (Providing I have Wi-Fi access, for now.)
From today, the BBC will begin its global roll-out of iPlayer, introducing the service to 11 additional countries across Western Europe, including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.
It won't quite be the same iPlayer service us Brits are receiving, however. In fact, it seems to be even better. According to the BBC, it will be more of an on-demand service rather than the catch-up service we've become accustomed to. In addition to offering fresh content like Top Gear and Doctor Who, the service will also feature classic shows such as Only Fools and Horses — possibly the greatest ever British comedy if you haven't already seen or heard of it.
Luke Bradley-Jones, managing director of BBC.com, explains the difference:
"We think we have a load of unmet demand for BBC and British content internationally.
"This is not a catch-up service: this is a video-on-demand service. We will have content from the last month, but also the best from the catalogue stretching back 50 to 60 years."
If you're a Brit reading this and you're beginning to get a little jealous of our neighbors in Western Europe, it doesn't stop there. In addition to content from the BBC, the international iPlayer will source 10% of its content from ITV and Channel 4 as well.
There is one caveat for viewers outside of Britain, however. While some content will be available for free, with support from pre-roll advertising and sponsorship, full access will come at a price. Europeans can choose to sign up monthly for €6.99 (approx. $10), or pay €49.99 (approx. $72) for an annual subscription.
The international app will allow viewers to stream content over both Wi-Fi and 3G, and download TV shows for viewing offline. Streaming over 3G and offline viewing are features we don't currently have access to within the U.K. app, but we're hoping they'll arrive in an update soon.
But what about you guys in the U.S.? Well, you'll be getting some love from iPlayer too, but you'll be waiting until later this year. Mr. Bradley-Jones says it's not quite as easy to take iPlayer over the Atlantic:
"The rights picture for the US is a little bit more complicated.
"The nature of the agreements with our rights partners are different, and the windows across our existing business are older than they are in Europe.
"Form our side, we have to jump through a few more of those commercial and legal hoops. We could have launched in the US with a product this week, but there would have been a few too many missing parts."
There's also a little more good news from the good old Beeb: BBC iPlayer will be coming to our iPhone, and finally our Apple TV — but only after it's proven itself on the iPad for 12 months. Unfortunately for you Android and Windows Phone users, the BBC is focused on Apple's devices for the time being, according to Bradley-Jones:
"We hope that this service becomes multi-device, multi-platform and multi-territory over time, but as a premium-but-niche service, we did not want to go in with both feet from day one.
"We're spending the next year in a pilot-type phase focusing on one device, to make a clean and very compelling experience. We have a great relationship with Apple in terms of the promotional commitments they'll give us too."
Are you excited for the launch of BBC iPlayer in Europe, and in the U.S. later this year?