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BBC iPlayer launches in 11 countries

iplayerBrits have been using the phenomenally popular service for nearly four years, but from Thursday 11 other countries will be able to see what all the fuss is about.

We’re talking about the BBC iPlayer, an on-demand broadband television and radio service that allows viewers to watch programming broadcast by the BBC for up to seven days after it has been aired.

According to a Guardian report, the service will be available through an iPad app to 11 countries in western Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland). Later in the year the service will also be launched in the US, Canada and Australia as part of a one-year pilot scheme.

The service will differ slightly for international users compared to those in the UK – some content will be offered for free (supported by advertising), but to gain full access, users will be encouraged to take out a subscription for €6.99 a month or €49.99 a year. Considering that in the UK every household in possession of a TV has to pay an annual license fee of £145.50 (€165), the fee for overseas users of the iPlayer looks pretty reasonable.

So what will you get for your money? More BBC content than you’ll ever have time to watch, by the sounds of it.

Speaking to the Guardian, Luke Bradley-Jones, managing director of BBC.com, outlined a difference with the UK iPlayer: “This is not a catch-up service: this is a video-on-demand service. We will have content from the last month, but also the best from the catalogue stretching back 50 to 60 years.”

He continued: “What we’re trying to test in the pilot is the ability to drive exploration and discovery through a programming approach rather than an algorithm-based approach. We’re not trying to compete against a Netflix or a Hulu. This has to be tailored and hand-crafted, so we can create a tone of voice.”

Besides the ability to browse genres of programming, users will also be presented with themed collections, such as all the Doctor Who series based on which Doctor was playing the role at the time.

Mark Smith, launch director of the global iPlayer, said, “There is at least 1,500 hours of content there from day one, and it will be growing by at least 100 hours a month going forward.”

The iPad app will allow users to stream programs over 3G as well Wi-Fi, and to download for later viewing offline.

On the subject of the global iPlayer becoming available on other mobile devices, Bradley-Jones had this to say: “We hope that this service becomes multi-device, multi-platform and multi-territory over time, but as a premium-but-niche service, we did not want to go in with both feet from day one.”

The iPlayer is a big hit with users in the UK, who can watch TV programs and listen to radio shows on mobile devices, PCs and through many TV sets. In March of this year the iPlayer received 160 million requests for TV and radio shows, an increase of 12 million on the month before.