Could an International version of the BBC iPlayer be on the way? Possibly, if rumors of talks happening between Google and the BBC prove to be true. Could this finally be where the international licensing of television programs starts taking the Internet and online video into consideration?
I’ve long argued for the relaxation of international rights licensing in order to open the online video market up. The Web has made the world a much smaller place than ever before and television networks and content providers need to realize this.
Hulu Vs BBC iPlayer
As a Brit, I’ve been frustrated to see Hulu launch in the United States only, with a lot of great content on the service I’d love the chance to watch but cannot due to being resident in the wrong country. In May it emerged that Hulu may be planning to right this wrong by launching a Hulu service for the UK, before potentially rolling out an international service to the rest of Europe and beyond.
In the same way I’m annoyed at not being able to (legally) watch Hulu on my computer, many Americans feel the same way about the BBC iPlayer. I’m banned from watching the likes of Heroes and 24 over the Internet while U.S. citizens are effectively banned from watching Doctor Who, Planet Earth and all the other great BBC-produced content. But maybe not for much longer.
International BBC iPlayer
The Telegraph recently claimed a global version of the BBC iPlayer could be on its way. The international iPlayer would be somehow backed by YouTube, with Google thought to be currently discussing plans with the BBC. In fact, the newspaper claims that Mark Thompson, the BBC Director General, is having talks with Eric Schmidt, the Chairman and CEO of Google.
As has been the problem up to now, international rights licensing for BBC content is thought to be the one issue holding up the plans being put into operation. What form Google and YouTube’s part in this whole project will play is not yet clear but it’s thought that whatever the case, content will remain free to watch as it is for the UK-only iPlayer.
The BBC Speaks
A BBC spokesman is quoted as saying:
“There are a significant number of obstacles to extending this commercially to other countries, including international rights clearance.”
“These obstacles present significant difficulties and for this reason there are no firm plans for a specific international BBC iPlayer, but audiences can watch BBC content outside the UK through numerous BBC Worldwide content deals with online partners such as iTunes.”
I hope this is true, as I hope the Hulu plans to break out of its self-imposed borders are also true. For online video to truly build in the way that it deserves to, the industry needs to realize the Internet has broken down the idea of borders and separate countries.
After all, if viewers continue to be excluded from legally watching their favorite TV shows, they’ll just turn to piracy as the only available option instead. Which surely no-one wants and the industry certainly doesn’t need.
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