BBC's iMP Dilemma

In this week's Media Guardian, Steve Hewlett described the debate surrounding BBC's Interactive Media Player rollout. iMP allows viewers to download BBC programmes and watch them on their computers. In the recent trials, programmes were available for a week after broadcast, and cost nothing.

Now BBC has to decide how to proceed, and a major part of the decision is whether to charge for downloads.
I think the probable outcome is that the first 7 days will be free, but any downloads after this will have to be paid for. And this would be fair. If BBC starts giving away free content, its scale means that the value of the whole sector is diminished - and not just the download sector, physical media as well. How can 2entertain sell Little Britain DVDs, for example, if they are widely and easily available for free?

And why should content be free anyway? The argument often used is that we've already paid a license fee, but that fee entitles us to watch the BBC's broadcast output. But that doesn't wash. Just because you've paid McDonalds for a burger, doesn't mean they're going to give you a coke for nothing.

For the sake of the whole industry, BBC must act like a commercial organisation this time.

Posted by melvin | Mar 29, 2006 @ 1:58 PM | Comments (3)



I don't know, M, sounds like a perfect opportunity for credit card style "smartcards" which allow a user to pay a modest fee for episodes of their favorite show, which can only be downloaded via the card and accompanying card reader hooked up to their pc.

To make it more compelling, the access card itself could be one of four fantastic looking collectible cards.

OK, OK, OK... I am being an arse here, but I really want a Ricky Gervais smartcard which will allow me to pre-pay for the poscasts!

My main reason for posting this wasn't to rip you - I find what you are saying interesting, especially since the iTunes music store is rolling out more and more programming that can be purchased immediately after the broadcast date of the show.

Unfortunately, I already pay for most of these programs in my monthly cable bill, which is really f*cking expensive - I won't pay for the Daily Show a second time just to view it on the train heading into the office.

It has to be unique for me to pay for it - and so, if you are able to get BBC broadcasts for free, even for a brief window - you have it better than we do here.

pazen :: April 3, 2006 4:56 AM

seems I must not have copied my last paragraph... but I will try to resurrect it briefly: I agree with you COMPLETELY, and think that it is fair to charge for unique content - I realize that we have argued about online content in the past, but if there is an actual bit that you can't get elsewhere, there is a market for it.

I just fear that this situation will just make the rich richer, because that coke that comes with your burger is pure profit - 5 cents worth of carmel-colored water is yours for only 99 cents. and the same goes for the fries.

And that profit allows the BBC and other content providers to have more clout, leverage and control of what we see and hear. Hopefully, they will see the value of more enlightening programming, rather than spoon-feed the same old same-old.

pazen :: April 3, 2006 5:11 AM

What are you, some kind of commie? All this talk of rich getting richer...

Thanks for your comments - you make some very good points, although I think the situation here in the UK is different and therefore so is the debate.

The point is that BBC is in a unique position since it's funded by an annual license fee AND it's a media giant in size and brand terms. If BBC sets customer expectations at free (justified by its public service remit and paid for by its license fees) the independent sector won't be able to match this.

As for the clout that all these content providers will have, who else is going to come up with the content we want to see/hear, and give it to us for nothing? Even Ricky Gervais sold out...

Melvin :: April 3, 2006 3:23 PM

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