BBC Store Hints at a Drive to Greater Global Access

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Often held up as a paragon of broadcasting virtue,  where the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) leads, other programmers tend to follow – – by way of a timely example, it just won two Emmys here in the U.S.

So the news that the public service organization will next year introduce its own version of a digital content store is sure to  have broadcasters around the world considering where their own service offerings stand, by comparison.

The idea that the next evolution of entertainment will be based on accessibility and reliability is not a new one, but the international question remains a crucial sticking point to one of its key tenets. Anyone who spends a standard amount of time online looking for content knows that running into geographic restrictions – the dreaded “not available in your country” warning – is a common barrier.

Although the first iteration of the BBC Store will serve only British audiences, a further hint at the desire to “go global” lies in the tentative steps towards bringing iPlayer, the corporation’s streaming service, to an international audience. The radio wing of iPlayer is already edging out into the wider world, while its TV offerings are facing a slower but steadily popular rise through international arms like BBC America and the World Service.

The corporation clearly wants to expand the audience for its vast archive as far and wide as possible, but to do so must avoid stepping on the toes of many other parties in individual countries, from rival broadcasters with their own content agreements to digital retailers that include some of the biggest technology brands in the world.

Although that’s no mean feat, if anyone can accomplish international access the BBC is perhaps the most well placed to do so.

As a public service (to the British public, admittedly, but nonetheless driven less purely by revenue than most) the corporation has more of a focus on serving its audience with deep, diverse content than broadcasters who rely on advertising revenue. Even with the first step of the BBC Store the service has confirmed that links to purchase content on other major digital services, such as iTunes or Amazon, will be integrated into the system.

And as the Hollywood Reporter article above explains, BBC Worldwide president Marcus Arthur confirms that this move is “as much about the archive as it is about current content.” Only six percent of BBC content is currently available to buy, meaning that this play could expand audiences for all manner of titles both at home and abroad. Even if an early work-around is to link users outside of the UK to services in their own country that do host the desired content, it’s still a small step towards greater international access, and one that major digital content providers would surely embrace as a new source of traffic and custom.

Eventually it seems likely that intellectual property restrictions based on geographic location and release exclusivity will have to recede.

Audiences around the world are increasingly connected and aware of what their peers in other places are watching, reading, and listening to,m making it all the more desirable to search them out.Whether or not the BBC ushers in a new era of access, it’s in the best interests of entertainment company and consumer alike that they find a legitimate service to pay for when they reach out beyond their own borders.

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