BBC still looking to expand iPlayer into US's 'complex media market'

8th Aug 2012 | 21:53

BBC still looking to expand iPlayer into US's 'complex media market'

Last we heard, cable companies were blocking the move

The BBC is still looking to expand its global iPlayer business to the US, despite months of silence following June rumors that US cable companies were blocking the move.

The iPlayer streaming media service has been a huge success in the UK, and even competitors credit it with "changing consumer behavior" and "normalizing the idea of catch-up TV."

So when the British Broadcasting Company rolled out the global iPlayer in 11 Western European countries for a 12-month trial starting in 2011, US fans had high hopes that the service would soon reach their shores.

By Dec. 2011, iPlayer had expanded to Australia, Scandinavia and Canada, and the BBC announced in July 2012 that the global iPlayer client had surpassed 1 million downloads.

So why has the US been left hanging?

US cable providers have a hostage

In June, a report surfaced claiming that US cable networks had threatened to drop the BBC America channel from their services if the broadcasting company launched iPlayer in the US.

The cable companies feared the iPlayer would cut into their business by offering streaming versions of shows that air on BBC America.

The BBC's Chris Dobson skirted the issue at the time, saying, "Most of us operating in the US are at the behest of Time Warner and Comcast," adding, "We shouldn't believe they will not have a play in this space."

There's been almost two months of silence on the issue since June, when the BBC extended the global iPlayer pilot program through the fall of 2012, but now another BBC spokesperson has given TechRadar some addition information.

The US is "particularly complex"

iPlayer's most recent expansion brought the streaming service to Canada in Dec. 2011, and "we haven't launched into any further countries since then," the BBC's Head of Communications for Worldwide Channels and global iPlayer Tessa Matchett told TechRadar in an email.

"The US is a particularly complex media market," she explained.

"We have a successful cable channel in BBC America and we're weighing our options for additional platforms."

Reading between the lines, it's not difficult to see the implication there that the BBC is not currently willing to risk the BBC America channel by launching the iPlayer in the US.

With iPlayer already taking the iPad, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone platforms by storm, cable companies might do well to jump on board before they're left in the BBC's streaming dust.

via paidContent

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