According to a report from Paid Content, the BBC is working on a competitor to iTunes for UK viewers that’s currently named Project Barcelona. Similar to the pricing found on iTunes, new television shows could be downloaded for £1.89 per episode which comes to approximately $2.98. While only seven percent of the BBC’s current content library can be found through online sources, Project Barcelona would allow the BBC to sell access to the massive archive of content that’s currently unavailable. Producers of BBC content are concerned that a new competitor to iTunes will further cannibalize physical disc sales such as DVD or Blu-ray in addition to creating exclusivity issues regarding where the content can be sold.
As detailed further by Paid Content, the BBC is tentatively offering producers a higher share of profits from the sale of each episode, potentially double the revenue after Apple takes a 30 percent cut from sales on iTunes. In order to move forward with Project Barcelona, the BBC has to gain the approval of the BBC Trust, an organization that acts as the representative for the public.
Since the BBC is publicly funded, the plan for Project Barcelona may come under criticism if UK viewers have to spend additional money to watch BBC programming. According to the BBC, anyone in the UK “who watches or records TV as it is broadcast needs to be covered by a TV licence,” and the current rate for the yearly license fee is £145.50 ($228) for color television programming.
The BBC’s current online platform for watching programming is the BBC iPlayer which is available for UK viewers on all three next generation gaming consoles in addition to tablets, mobile devices and personal computers. However, U.S. viewers are unable to take advantage of the BBC iPlayer. If Project Barcelona moves forward, the BBC could make a strong case for providing access to U.S. viewers in order to gain direct sales revenue from popular series in the U.S. such as Doctor Who, Top Gear, Torchwood and Sherlock.