Sources close to the negotiations say that Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, is leading talks with Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive and chairman about rolling out an international version of the BBC iPlayer, supported in some way by Google-owned video sharing site YouTube.
However the process has been mired by the need for international rights clearance for the BBC programmes currently shown on the iPlayer in the UK. The BBC iPlayer allows viewers to watch popular BBC programmes for up to seven days after they were first broadcast.BBC content is also available on YouTube in the UK, but only in short clip format. This step would mean BBC shows could be seen globally in their entirety on the iPlayer platform supported by YouTube. Although no details about the business structure have emerged, it is though internet users would be able to access the content for free.
A BBC spokesperson said: “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.”
Separate talks are understood to be happening concurrently between YouTube and BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the corporation, about making the BBC’s archive content, for which international licenses have already been acquired, available on YouTube in their entirety. This follows on from a lucrative deal struck between YouTube and BBC Worldwide in America to broadcast a selection of its content in full. Industry pundits predict the deal will pave the way for a similar deal in the UK.
Although a YouTube spokesperson refused to confirm talks about an international iPlayer were taking place, they said: “The BBC is one of YouTube's oldest partners and for over two years we've worked with various parts of the BBC to support the distribution, promotion and monetisation of their content.”
Let's hope it's sooner than later.