TV Producers Block iPlayer Abroad

Independent Television producers have vowed to block the BBC’s plans to make the iPlayer available overseas to UK licence payers.

Under ideas laid out by BBC Director General Mark Thompson at his MacTaggart Lecture to the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival overseas licence fee payers such as servicemen would be able to access VOD from anywhere in the world.

BBC iPlayerBut this new definition of the iPlayer’s boundaries under cuts the current ‘terms of trade’ with the BBC and independent TV producers.

John McVay, CEO of the sectors trade group PACT commented that no agreement had been reached and that they would resist such a move:

“The terms of trade DO NOT allow for the iPlayer to be accessed outside of the UK as this cuts across the commercial rights of independent producers.”

The ‘terms of trade’ were first negioatiated with the BBC for commissioning contracts in 2004 with an additional clause added in 2006 allowing independent producers to commercialise there wares on other VOD services after a period of exculsivity with the BBC had concluded.

However this agreement only covers rights in the UK. Even if an admittedly interesting technological development does occurr which allows the BBC to authenticate UK licence payers using the overseas service either seperate to or part of the iPlayer, the terms of the agreement would be stretched.

Rights agreements are staunchly nationalised. The oft muted “International iPlayer” for BBC Worldwide revenue streams in America where Doctor Who is part of an expanding British Invasion of shows, has faultered because of such rights boundaries.

On the issue of BBC Worldwides in-roads into new territories, BBC director-general Mark Thompson effectively announced a deadline of one year for the service to embrace this new arm of the business and launch the International iPlayer.

He stated:

“It’s the right time to take a fresh look at whether the current terms are fit for purpose … we may need more flexibility from the producers.”

McVay believes that the BBC could be cutting off its nose to spite its face if it offers this overseas service for free which could raise issues with BBC Worldwides ventures.

Despite BBC Worldwide syndicating Doctor Who and others to commercial third party aggregators such as iTunes, the chance to profit from a branded online platform using the popuarlity of these shows is going begging.



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