BBC Worldwide to continue experimenting with revenue models, says global iPlayer chief

BBC Worldwide must experiment with a whole host of revenues models, including linear channels, on-demand services, DVD sales and downloads, if it is to bring its content to as wide an audience as possible and maximise its revenues, according to its global iPlayer GM Matthew Littleford. Speaking to StrategyEye, Littleford says that, while some broadcasters may be concerned that online services will cannibalise traditional revenue streams, he sees global iPlayer as an “additive” to the existing business. He believes that consumers increasingly want to have access to content all of the time in a range of different ways, from Sky subscriptions, to catch-up services such as iPlayer or ITV Player and DVDs, with the BBC needing to cater to all of these needs.

“It is important that the BBC looks at a whole host of different ways of creating and bringing revenue into the business to take back to the mother ship,” says Littleford. “It’s about creating great content but also about creating the right platforms and the right places for people to watch it. Some of those are linear and part of the massive success of the business is the linear global channels. And part of that is looking at it from a digital perspective and saying what can digital add to the party?”

The global iPlayer is part of BBC Worldwide’s plan to open up its archive of content to viewers globally, as well as showcase the best of its recent programming. Currently in the pilot phase, the service is only available as an app on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Littleford says the decision to launch on iOS only was a practical one, with Apple already having a payment gateway in place, meaning that the BBC didn’t have to spend time and money creating its own. However, Littleford says that, if the pilot proves successful, the global iPlayer will roll out on a much bigger scale, including into emerging markets, and the firm will consider new business models including advertising and sponsorship.

“The idea is that if this is successful, we then roll it out on a much bigger scale and on multiple platforms in multiple territories,” he says. “And then there is a discussion to be had on creating price points that would give consumers within different territories the impetus and desire to access it. There is no point in creating something that is outside somebody’s price bracket. We do sponsorship, and we are going to look at advertising.”

Judging on the popularity of the global iPlayer so far, a full launch seems highly likely. Although Littleford doesn't give exact user and engagement figures, he says that the service has hit all its key performance indicators across subscriptions, the type of content and the number of downloads, so much so that the team has put in stretch targets to see if the service can hit those as well. He adds that the team behind the global iPlayer is yet to set an exact date when the pilot will end, but is already working on how to go to full service.

“There is definitely an appetite out there for brilliant BBC content, and also for iPlayer,” he says. “Not content that you could see anywhere, but content within the framework of a video-on-demand service. We seem to be doing well in all of the markets that we're in. I can't think of a market where we're under-performing.”