BBC Worldwide launches iPlayer app in Canada

BBC Worldwide is today launching the international version of its video-on-demand service, the iPlayer, in Canada, via a subscription iPad app, which features titles from the British broadcaster's library such as Walking with Dinosaurs and Top Gear.
December 1, 2011

BBC Worldwide (BBCWW) is today (December 1) launching the international version of its video-on-demand service, the iPlayer, in Canada, via a subscription iPad app, which features titles from the British broadcaster’s library such as Walking with Dinosaurs and Top Gear.

The launch makes Canada the 16th country to get the Global iPlayer on iPad to date, following the launch of the VoD app in Australia in September this year, and in markets across Western Europe in July.

Talking at a launch event in downtown Toronto, BBCWW’s exec VP of digital Daniel Heaf said his team had been “amazed” at the results they had had rolling out the Global iPlayer in non-English speaking territories, such as France.

“I like to think there’s a huge pent-up demand for BBC content around the world,” said Heaf. At present, the Global iPlayer will be only available to Canadians via the iPad, and can be downloaded for free from the iTunes app store, starting today.

With the free download, users are able to watch some 30 selected programs a month before having to subscribe. For a monthly fee of CAD$8.99 a month or CAD$84.99 a year, subscribers get access to more than 1,500 hours of programming from the BBCWW catalogue.

Heaf did not rule out launching the app on other devices, such as the iPhone, but said there were no plans to do so at present. He was also keen to point out that the Global iPlayer was markedly different from the UK iPlayer, which is a seven-day digital catch-up service.

As such, the app will notably not feature some current hot UK titles, such as wildlife series Frozen Planet, which is currently airing in Great Britain to high ratings. That series was coproduced by the BBC with Discovery Channel Canada, and the latter network has the Canadian premiere window rights.

Heaf said BBCWW would look at taking digital premiere rights for Canada for the app on a title-by-title basis. “If it [a title] becomes big enough to sustain taking the premiere VoD window, we would be thrilled and delighted to make it available on the iPlayer,” he explained.

“However, this is a very, very different type of service – it’s not a seven-day catch-up service. This is a BBC-branded service where we aggregate a very curated experience.”

BBCWW Canada will soft-launch the Global iPlayer throughout December, promoting it via its BBC services and making 30 different festive programs available on the app, on a one-a-day basis.

Non-fiction titles available at launch include The Restaurant, Pole-to-Pole, Arctic with Bruce Parry, Britain’s Royal Weddings, Murdoch: Breaking The Spell? and Tribe, as well as titles from factual strands such as ‘Newsnight,’ ‘Horizon,’ ‘Panorama’ and ‘Click.’

Drama and comedy titles available at launch will include Luther; Sherlock; Yes, Minister; Blackadder; Fawlty Towers; Hustle; MI-5; Holby City; Tess of the d’Urbevilles; Only Fools and Horses; Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show; and The Royle Family.

In a statement, BBCWW’s president of worldwide networks and Global iPlayer, Jana Bennett, said: “Canada has always been an enthusiastic supporter of BBC programming, and the Global iPlayer lets us share thousands of acclaimed British shows with one of our most dedicated audiences.

“Canadian subscribers to the global iPlayer will literally have the best of the BBC at their fingertips.”

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.