updated 06:35 pm EST, Tue March 6, 2007
BBC to take on iTunes
As Apple's iTunes faces growing pressures from Europe, the BBC this week began planning its own alternative to the iPod-maker's dominance in the music and media industries. According to The Financial Times the BBC's commercial arm yesterday invited other UK broadcasters to put their programming on its new online media player in an effort to create an alternative to Apple's iTunes jukebox and media player software that could available this year. Hoping that the new service will provide "free" alternative the closed iPod/iTunes ecosystem, the BBC hopes to build a suitable alternative to customers. Called iPlayer, BBC Worldwide's chief executive likened the software to Freeview, a free digital terrestrial television service.
The new service would stem the growing influence of Apple in the digital world: its iTunes software was the fastest growing media player, growing nearly 50 percent over the last year. It is set to surpass RealPlayer in popularity later this year.
The BBC said it could create a new digital platform for broadcasters and that the new service would offer content producers a chance to control their own destiny and more opportunities for monetization.
The iPlayer will combined both ad-funded streaming of video and pay-per-content model, which Apple's uses for iTunes. The new digital platform could "ready to go" this autumn if approved by the BBC Trust, according to the details provided by the report.
Speaking at the FT digital media conference in London, BBC exec John Smith looked to raise awareness about the new initiative and recruit original content for a single, central service. The report notes that ITV, Channel 4 and BSkyB have all launched online platforms.
Smith, however, warned that the industry could repeat the mistakes of music companies, which allowed Apple to dominate the legal digital download market with its simple, fixed-price model at the iTunes store.
"We would be delighted if other major UK broadcasters wanted to join us and make it a pan-UK service," Smith told attendees. "Imagine some third-party controlling the positions and pricing of all our content on the web so we might get, say, 50 per cent of £1.99 whether it's Planet Earth that cost millions to produce or daytime cookery that cost a few thousands."
BBC Worldwide is planning an aggressive digital expansion to double profits to £200 million over the next five years, the report claims.